Student Engagement and Partnership

This page provides information on our approach to developing and embedding new ways of engaging and partnering with students as part of the Curriculum Transformation process.

Activity in context

Whilst there are many spheres appropriate for student engagement activity within the context of the University’s institution-wide approach, Curriculum Transformation primarily provides opportunity to address student engagement within the realm of ‘learning and teaching’, see Figure 1 (Healey et al., 2014).

More specifically, the Phases provide opportunity within ‘the quality enhancement of learning and teaching’ through ‘curriculum design and pedagogic consultancy’ (Healey et al., 2014). Opportunities for engagement in other areas of learning and teaching, like ‘learning, teaching and assessment’ or ‘subject-based research and inquiry’, are most clearly identified within discrete elements of the process (for instance, the development of unit descriptors in Phases 2 and 3) rather than the process as a whole.

A model developed by Higher Education Academy and National Union of Students (2011, cited in Healey et al. 2014: 16; see Figure 2) provides a useful way to articulate the difference amongst ways to engage with your students. You will see that each level builds upon the next, but all have a place within the Transformation process.

Figure 1: Students as partners in learning and teaching in HE - an overview model
Figure 1: Students as partners in learning and teaching in HE - an overview model (Healey et al., 2014)


Figure 2: Four stages of student engagement (HEA and NUS, 2011)

Activity through Curriculum Transformation

Phase 1: Using the model above, we can confidently say that Phase 1 focuses on engaging students through ‘consultation’ activity. By asking current and former students about their thoughts and experiences of their course we empower them as critical stakeholders whether via focus groups, surveys, formal representation structures, or feedback events. Documentation of these engagement events are part of the course submission for Phase 1 approval.

Phases 2 and 3: Phases 2 and 3 usefully build upon the Phase 1 ‘consultation’ engagement by embedding opportunities for greater student ‘involvement’, ‘participation’, and ‘partnership’ in both the development and delivery of the transformed course. This is reflected in the success criteria which state that Course Development Team will engage with students in Phases 2 and 3, and their feedback considered in the design and development of the course.

Student engagement in course development

Course development teams could consider:

· Inviting students to join the course development team

· Running a student focus group to solicit student voice on the course structure, assessment strategy, etc.

· Sending out a survey to current students asking their thoughts and preferences on specific course choices

As you are creating the model that works best for your course, consider the following:

· What steps are you taking to ensure diverse student voice?

· How have you gone beyond consultation or are planning to go beyond consultation in your approach to student engagement? This can be a phased approach over the duration of the course.

· Have you considered where your Student Engagement activity will be placed in relation to major assessment deadlines and other critical time points in the academic calendar?

· Have you built in regular opportunities to reflect on your Student Engagement strategy and act on your reflections?

Activity examples

Click the links below to see examples of each activity type:

Using Focus Groups to Engage with Students

Focus groups are an effective means by which to begin student engagement activity. It is important to ensure that a range of student voices are heard - including those that might not normally put themselves forward.

The Centre of Learning and Teaching has worked with the Faculties of Engineering & Design and Humanities Social Sciences, and the School of Management, to train a number of staff in how to facilitate student focus groups as part of Curriculum Transformation. Contact your Faculty Assistant Registrar if you would like support in organising and running focus groups for your course cohort.

The Department of Health used this approach in the first phase of their course transformation, and gained valuable insights into the student experience that shaped later thinking around course structures and teaching and learning methods.

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Download a suggested focus group plan which includes key questions designed to support the course-wide approach to learning that underpins Curriculum Transformation. The focus group is estimated to take 45mins-1hr.

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