Using student engagement data to drive pedagogic innovation

The sector is increasingly interested in how new technologies such as learning analytics promise to target support to ‘at risk’ students (Gordon, 2014) through mapping large-scale historic student engagement data such as attendance, library use, and virtual learning environment activity to demographic information and typical student outcomes (see Jisc, 2018).

Learning analytics at Newman – or Using Student Engagement Data as we refer to it – stems from our involvement in the Higher Education Academy (HEA), Action on Access and Paul Hamlyn Foundation What Works Phase Two (Thomas et al, 2017) programme. Here, the project lead (Sarah Parkes) highlighted that in order to holistically support students, strategies were needed for establishing consistent data that represented the many interactions students have across the University whilst remaining aware of the serious ethical issues in the gathering, manipulation and deployment of such data (Slade and Prinsloo, 2013).

All such work has employed Newman’s Student-staff Partnership framework to run projects that utilised analytics to drive pedagogic innovation. Key to our collaborative work is embracing the ‘pedagogy of partnership’ that helped form our Principles for Using Student Engagement data and underpinned the HEFCE catalyst project ‘Collaborative development of pedagogic interventions based on learning analytics’. This implemented data-informed mentoring systems that responded to data generated from attendance at lectures, digital footprints across campus (door-swipes, VLE access) and assessment mark in a variety of guises. This has correlated to improved retention and submission rates and assisted students to overcome barriers to success including lack of confidence, not understanding HE, and not feeling empowered to ask for help. The partnership work involved here has enabled closer, meaningful relationships to develop between partners, resulting in reciprocal understanding of each other’s circumstances and responsibilities beyond the normal silos. As a result, traditional power relationships have been dismantled with student partner involvement prompting personal and professional development, including improvements in University assessments.

For further information, please email:

Sarah Parkes – Sarah.parkes@newman.ac.uk

Being able to confer with other members of staff and students working on similar projects made me feel as though I was part of a team working towards something bigger. Whenever we all got together, we were all able to bounce off one another and offer each other feedback and advice. [I] always felt like I was learning not only through [the staff partner’s] experience as a member of staff but alongside her, in a way that allowed this relationship to feel like a true partnership.
Aaisha Akhtar (student partner)

What our staff partners had to say:

“What was special [about this project] was the genuine collaboration and working alongside students.’

Adam Benkwitz

“This was the first project where I have experienced a true partnership in terms of work load, vision and management … the students have taken on the bulk of the project work after the initial stages.”

Kerry Myler

“What has been great about the staff-staff collaborations within the main project (rather than our subject/programme specific SSPs) was learning about the different challenges across our respective disciplines and how together, we could support each other to find solutions.”

Helen Bardy

What student mentees had to say:

“If it hadn’t been for the support from you, I think I would have packed it all in.”

“I am not sure I would have survived and still be here if I hadn’t had the help from the [Peer Mentors].”

“You stopped and said hello when you saw me and asked me about my son [starts crying] sorry I’m getting emotional, it made me feel more comfortable.”

Download the Final Report

HEFCE Catalyst Fund: Final Report

Recent Publications

Benkwitz, A., Parkes, S, Bardy, H., Myler, K., Peters, J., Akhtar, A., Keeling, P.
Preece, R., and Smith, T. (2019) ‘Using student data: Student-staff collaborative development of
compassionate pedagogic interventions based on learning analytics and mentoring’, Journal of Hospitality, Leisure, Sport & Tourism Education. DOI https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhlste.2019.100202

Parkes, S. (2018) ‘A learner developer perspective: critiquing dominant practices and cultures within university spaces’, Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education, Special Edition: 2018 ALDinHE Conference, October 2018. ISSN: 1759-667X. Available here: http://journal.aldinhe.ac.uk/index.php/jldhe/article/view/464/pdf

Parkes, S., Mathais, L. and Seal, M. (2018) ‘Becoming a Newman Foundation Year Student: Conscientization to Promote Democratic Engagement, Meaningful Dialogue and Co-operative Working’, Journal of the Foundation Year Network, pp. 71-86. Available here: https://jfyn.co.uk/index.php/ukfyn/article/view/21/19