On Thursday and Friday of last week (June 10th and 11th), up to 200 people gathered in NUI Galway for the joint Galway Symposium-NAIRTL Conference on student engagement. With 6 keynotes, multiple parallel streams including workshops and 23 Pecha-Kucha style presentations, the programme was jam-packed. For thus of us in the think of things, rushing around behind the scenes, dealing with technical issues, chairing sessions and juggling with the complexities of car-parking, it is difficult to get a clear view of how the event is going, but from participant feedback it seemed to be an overall success with plenty of ideas being shared and debate taking place.
As is tradition with our events, the keynote presentations were recorded and we'll be posting up links to these in due course (after the video/editing team recover!). Amongst the issues raised, however, were the different conceptions and meanings behind the phrase 'student engagement' and what exactly it encompasses not just in practical terms but also its implicit pedagogical, philosophical and indeed political assumptions.
Lesley Gourlay (IoE, London) opened the event by raising such questions. She was followed by Derek Bruff (Vanderbilt) who demonstrated clearly how he and colleagues are able to stimulate student participation through the use of technologies including clickers (each person has one for live demonstration) and twitter. Elisabeth Dunne (Exeter) spoke of students as change agents and how student-led projects in her institution were used to reshape and reform curriculum and approaches to teaching. Mike Neary ended the first day with a rousing championing of a radical left approach that aimed to recapture the spirit of Humboldt's view of an active research-engaged form of learning but one that is driven in cooperation with students harnessing the types of creativity that emerged from activism of 1968 and illustrating with emerging examples in the UK in the past year or two.
On day two, Guy Claxton (Winchester) spoke of the formation of 'habits of mind' and the implicit, often unarticulated, aspects of what it means to be part of a scholarly community and engage in intellectual endeavour through the perspective of particular disciplinary traditions. Paul Kleiman (Lancaster) then reiterated the importance of communication and the development of student-staff relationships and partnership.