Higher Education Policy

, Volume 30, Issue 1, pp 69–85 | Cite as

From Student Engagement to Student Agency: Conceptual Considerations of European Policies on Student-Centered Learning in Higher Education

Original Article

Abstract

Student-centered learning (SCL) has entered center stage on the European higher education (HE) policy agenda after the Yerevan Ministerial Summit of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) in May 2015. It has become the key principle underlying the intended reforms toward enhancing the quality of teaching and learning in European HE. Despite the universal appeal, SCL remains poorly defined in policy documents and this ambiguity potentially jeopardizes its implementation. The article addresses the different instances and evocations of the SCL approach in EHEA policies. Furthermore, it seeks to clarify the conceptual foundations of SCL. Two propositions are put forward. First, SCL should be understood as a ‘meta-concept’. Such an understanding serves as a corrective to the eclectic use of SCL in association with a broad variety of policy issues. Second, the article questions the suitability of student engagement as a conceptual foundation of SCL. The main argument is that student engagement conceptually fails to sufficiently address student autonomy, self-regulation and choice, all of which have been highlighted by the literature as essential elements of SCL. The root concern of SCL is not propensity to different types of student action as implied in student engagement, but rather student agency as students’ capabilities to intervene in and influence their learning environments and learning pathways.

Keywords

student-centered learning (SCL) student-centered learning environments (SCLEs) student engagement student agency European Higher Education Area (EHEA) quality assurance higher education policy 

References

  1. Ashwin, P. and McVitty, D. (2015) ‘The Meanings of Student Engagement: Implications for Policies and Practices’, in A. Curaj, L. Matei, R. Pricopie, J. Salmi and P. Scott (eds.) The European Higher Education Area: Between Critical Reflection and Future Policies, Dordrecht: Springer, pp. 343–359.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bandura, A. (2001) ‘Social cognitive theory: an agentic perspective’, Annual Review of Psychology 52(1): 1–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Berlin Communiqué (2003) ‘Realising the European Higher Education Area, Communiqué of the Conference of Ministers responsible for Higher Education’, Berlin, http://www.ond.vlaanderen.be/hogeronderwijs/bologna/documents/MDC/Berlin_Communique1.pdf, accessed 8 December 2016.
  4. Bologna Declaration (1999) Joint Declaration of the European Ministers of Education, Bologna, http://www.ond.vlaanderen.be/hogeronderwijs/bologna/documents/MDC/BOLOGNA_DECLARATION1.pdf, accessed 8 December 2016.
  5. Bergen Communiqué (2005) The European Higher Education AreaAchieving the Goals, Bergen, http://www.ond.vlaanderen.be/hogeronderwijs/bologna/documents/MDC/050520_Bergen_Communique1.pdf, accessed 8 December 2016.
  6. Bourdieu, P. (1984) Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  7. Bromley, P., Meyer, J.W. and Ramirez, F. (2011) ‘Student-centeredness in social science textbooks: cross-national analyses, 1970–2005’, Social Forces 90(2): 1–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bucharest Communiqué (2012) Making the Most of Our Potential: Consolidating the European Higher Education Area, Bucharest, http://www.ond.vlaanderen.be/hogeronderwijs//beleid/Bologna/EHEA_Bucharest2012/Bucharest_Communique_2012.pdf, accessed 8 December 2016.
  9. DBIS (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) (2011) Higher Education: Students at the Hearth of the System, White Paper BIS/11/944, Cm 8122, London, UK: Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.Google Scholar
  10. EHEA (2010) Budapest-Vienna Declaration on the European Higher Education Area, Budapest and Vienna, http://www.ond.vlaanderen.be/hogeronderwijs/bologna/2010_conference/documents/Budapest-Vienna_Declaration.pdf, accessed 8 December 2016.
  11. EHEA (2015) Yerevan Communiqué, Yerevan, http://media.ehea.info/file/2015_Yerevan/70/7/YerevanCommuniqueFinal_613707.pdf, accessed 8 December 2016.
  12. Emirbayer, M. and Mische, A. (1998) ‘What is agency?’, American Journal of Sociology 103(4): 962–1023.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. ESU and EI (2010a) Student-Centred Learning: An Insight into Theory and Practice, Brussels: European Students’ Union and Education International.Google Scholar
  14. ESU and EI (2010b) Survey Analysis Time for Student Centered Learning, Brussels: European Students’ Union and Education International.Google Scholar
  15. European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice (2012) The European Higher Education Area in 2012: Bologna Process Implementation Report, Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.Google Scholar
  16. European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice (2015) The European Higher Education Area in 2015: Bologna Process Implementation Report. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.Google Scholar
  17. European Commission (2003) The Role of the Universities in the Europe of Knowledge, COM(2003) 58 final, Brussels: European Commission.Google Scholar
  18. European Commission (2005) Mobilising the Brainpower of Europe: Enabling Universities to Make Their Full Contribution to the Lisbon Strategy, COM(2005) 152 final, Brussels: European Commission.Google Scholar
  19. European Commission (2006) Delivering on the Modernisation Agenda for Universities: Education, Research and Innovation, COM(2006) 208 final, Brussels: European Commission.Google Scholar
  20. European Commission (2011) Supporting Growth and JobsAn Agenda for the Modernisation of Europe’s Higher Education Systems, COM(2011) 567 final, Brussels: European Commission.Google Scholar
  21. European Commission (2013) Report to the European Commission on Improving the Quality of Teaching and Learning in Europe’s Higher Education Institutions, Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.Google Scholar
  22. European Commission (2014) Report to the European Commission on New Modes of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.Google Scholar
  23. European Union (2015) ECTS Users’ Guide, Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, 2015.Google Scholar
  24. Geven, K. and Attard, A. (2012) ‘Time for Student-Centred Learning?’, in A. Curaj, P. Scott, L. Vlasceanu and L. Wilson (eds.) European Higher Education at the Crossroads: Between the Bologna Process and National Reforms, Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer, pp. 153–172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Grigsby, M. (2009) College Life Through the Eye of Students, Albany: SUNY Press.Google Scholar
  26. Hall, P.A. and Lamont, M. (2009) Successful Societies: How Institutions and Culture Affect Health, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hmelo-Silver, C.E., Golan Duncan, R. and Chinn, C.A. (2007) ‘Scaffolding and achievement in problem-based and inquiry learning: a response to Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark (2006)’, Educational Psychologist 42(2): 99–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kahn, P.E. (2014) ‘Theorising student engagement in higher education’, British Educational Research Journal 40(6): 1005–1018.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kirschner, P.A., Sweller, J. and Clark, R.E. (2006) ‘Why minimal guidance during instruction does not work: an analysis of the failure of constructivist, discovery, problem-based, experiential, and inquiry-based teaching’, Educational Psychologist 41(2): 75–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Klemenčič, M. (2011) ‘Student Representation in European Higher Education Governance: Principles and Practice, Roles and Benefits’, in E. Egron-Polak, J. Kohler, S. Bergan and L. Purser (eds.) Leadership and Governance in Higher Education. Handbook for Decision-Makers and Administrators, Berlin: RAABE Academic Publishers, pp. 1–26.Google Scholar
  31. Klemenčič, M. (2012) ‘The Changing Conceptions of Student Participation in HE Governance in the EHEA’, in A. Curaj, P. Scott, L. Vlasceanu and L. Wilson (eds.) European Higher Education at the Crossroads: Between the Bologna Process and National Reforms, Dordrecht: Springer, pp. 631–653.Google Scholar
  32. Klemenčič, M. and Ashwin, P. (2015) ‘New Directions for Teaching, Learning, and Student Engagement in the European Higher Education Area’, in R. Pricopie, P. Scott, J. Salmi and A. Curaj (eds.) The European Higher Education Area: Between Critical Reflection and Future Policies, Dordrecht: Springer, pp. 323–332.Google Scholar
  33. Klemenčič, M. and Chirikov, I. (2015) ‘On the Use of Student Surveys’, in R. Pricopie, P. Scott, J. Salmi and A. Curaj (eds.) The European Higher Education Area: Between Critical Reflection and Future Policies, Dordrecht: Springer, pp. 367–386.Google Scholar
  34. Klemenčič, M. (2015a) ‘What is Student Agency? An Ontological Exploration in the Context of Research on Student Engagement’, in M. Klemenčič, S. Bergan and R. Primožič (eds.) Student Engagement in Europe: Society, Higher Education and Student Governance, Council of Europe Higher Education Series No. 20, Strasbourg: Council of Europe Publishing, pp. 11–29.Google Scholar
  35. Klemenčič, M. (2015b) ‘Ahead of 2015 Bologna Ministerial Conference: a new agenda for the European Higher Education Area’, European Journal of Higher Education 5(1): 1–3.Google Scholar
  36. Klemenčič, M. (2015c) ‘Student Involvement in Quality Enhancement’, in J. Huisman, H. de Boer, D. Dill and M. Souto-Otero (eds) The Handbook of Higher Education Policy and Governance, London: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 526–543.Google Scholar
  37. Kuh, G.D. (2001) ‘Assessing what really matters to student learning: Inside the national survey of student engagement’, Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning 33(3): 10–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Land, S., Hannafin, M. and Oliver, K. (2012) ‘Student-Centred Learning Environments: Foundations, Assumptions and Design’, in D. Jonassen and S. Land (eds.) Theoretical Foundations of learning environments 2nd edition, New York and Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 1–25.Google Scholar
  39. Langworthy, M., Shear, L. and Means, B. (2010) ‘The Third Lever: Innovative Teaching and Learning Research’, in OECD (eds.) Inspired by Technology, Driven by Pedagogy, Paris: OECD, pp. 105–124.Google Scholar
  40. Luescher-Mamashela, T.M. (2012) ‘Student representation in university decision making: good reasons, a new lens?’, Studies in Higher Education, first published online 13 January doi:10.1080/03075079.2011.625496.
  41. Leuven Communiqué (2009) The Bologna Process 2020 -The European Higher Education Area in the new decade’, Leuven, http://ond.vlaanderen.be/hogeronderwijs/bologna/conference/documents/Leuven_Louvain-la-Neuve_Communiqu%C3%A9_April_2009.pdf, accessed 8 December 2016.
  42. London Communiqué (2007) Towards the European Higher Education Area: Responding to Challenges in a Globalised World, London, http://www.ond.vlaanderen.be/hogeronderwijs/bologna/documents/MDC/London_Communique18May2007.pdf, accessed 8 December 2016.
  43. McCulloch, A. (2009) ‘The student as co-producer: learning from public administration about the student university relationship’, Studies in Higher Education 34(2): 171–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Meyer, J.W. and Jepperson, R. (2000) ‘The “Actors” of modern society: cultural rationalization and the ongoing expansion of social agency’, Sociological Theory 18(1): 100–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Macfarlane, B. (2012) ‘Re-framing student academic freedom: a capability perspective’, Higher Education 63(6): 719–732.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Prague Communiqué (2001) Towards the European Higher Education Area, Prague, http://www.ond.vlaanderen.be/hogeronderwijs/bologna/documents/MDC/PRAGUE_COMMUNIQUE.pdf, accessed 8 December 2016.
  47. Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG) (2005) Brussels, Belgium.Google Scholar
  48. Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG) (2009) Brussels, Belgium.Google Scholar
  49. Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG) (2015) Brussels, Belgium.Google Scholar
  50. Trowler, V. (2010) Student Engagement Literature Review, York: UK: The Higher Education Academy.Google Scholar
  51. Trowler, V. and Trowler, P. (2011) Student Engagement Toolkit for Leaders, London, UK: Leadership foundation for higher education and Higher Education Research and Evaluation.Google Scholar
  52. van Andel, J., Botas, P.C.P., and Huisman, J. (2012) ‘Consumption values and empowerment of the student as customer: taking a rational look inside higher education’s “Pandora’s Box”’, Higher Education Review 45(1): 62–85.Google Scholar
  53. Zimmerman, B. (2008) ‘Investigating self-regulation and motivation: historical background, methodological developments, and future prospects’, American Educational Research Journal 45(1): 166–183.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© International Association of Universities 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Harvard UniversityCambridgeUSA

Personalised recommendations