We can all agree that student engagement is important: both for students to successfully achieve higher order cognitive skills in HE, and as a motivational tool for them taking ownership and engaging with their own learning. Engagement has always been a focus point for higher education institutions, however, the current context of the Covid-19 global pandemic has seen a surge in the use of flexible delivery methods that in turn refocuses the need to ensure student engagement is at the fore of our minds.
Given this landscape we have developed #52etc, 52 Engaging Toolkit Cards, as a practical resource for colleagues to use, adapt and develop within their teaching practices. The toolkit provides a ‘high-impact – low tech’ resource that is readily accessible, practical and specifically directed to enhancing student engagement. #52etc has been specifically developed for any taught environment, whether that is face to face, online or blended. In its simplest form, #52etc is a toolkit designed to support student engagement in a variety of learning environments.
By offering a means of strengthening student interaction through a range of tasks and ideas that promote student interactions, #52etc provides questions and offers activities that enable engagement and contributions through group activities. Designed with the challenges of the virtual classroom in mind, the cards prompt engagement and support students to develop deeper understanding of the subject matter through a variety of means, enabling a greater reflection of their own learning by also providing an opportunity to promote dialogue beyond the classroom space.
Some of the #52etc ideas originate from the 10 ‘Top Trumps’ for large group teaching (2015) resource published through Advance HE while others are drawn from established practice across HE and FE; ideas adapted from those seen and experienced as well as some original ideas and approaches of the authors. Most offer new or varied techniques and strategies drawn from practice and developed based around notions of engagement, flexibility and pedagogic principles. All have been piloted and refined with direct feedback from student cohorts and/or adoption in our own pedagogic practice and facilitation. It is important to note that none of these approaches work in isolation and need to be incorporated into a teaching plan.
#52etc provides an opportunity to reflect on and challenge social and educational inequalities pervasive in higher education. We take the view that inclusive practice done well does not stymie creativity or innovation, but rather ensures that such innovation takes inclusion at the point of design and delivery so that all may benefit.
In #52etc we ask you as an educator, when you take a card to ask yourself questions such as:
- what accessibility support may I need to anticipate to make sure all students (and teachers) can participate in this activity?
- how can I ensure instructions and communications are clear?
- which students might this activity privilege (even unintentionally), and which students might face barriers to engagement? Why? How might you mitigate the imbalance?
- for group activities and discussion, how can I provide guidance and set expectations on inclusive and respectful conversation or debate? How can I model this in my own engagement and contributions?
We encourage and anticipate practitioners’ critical engagement with the cards, proffering them for adaptation, repurposing and selective use to suit you and your students’ needs. To this end the two jokers in each pack are left intentionally blank, in the hope that practitioners will contribute their own suggestions (based on disciplines, delivery method or particular thematic application of the cards), sending these back to the authors and/or sharing them via social media (with the hashtag #52etc) so that they form the basis of a sustainable shared resource for application within the sector.
The full 52-card set will be available to all colleagues from Advance HE member institutions in early December.
Ian works in the Centre of Excellence in Learning and Teaching at the University of Derby. Ian is a National Teaching Fellow (2014) and was named the Royal Society of Biology HE lecturer of the year 2017. Ian’s research interests include gamification and game-based learning.
Stuart is a Senior Adviser in Learning & Teaching at Advance HE. His role transitions across the core thematic areas of student success, where he takes a keen role in supporting sector-wide learning and teaching policy.
Jess is a Senior Adviser at Advance HE focusing on inclusion across the staff and student lifecycles. She works with institutions on issues such as inclusive curricula and teaching, equality policy and analysis, and tackling structural inequalities.