Student Engagement

What is Student Engagement?

Engagement is defined as the time and effort that students spend on activities related to student life (curricular and co-curricular). It is measured by using specific behaviors such as the discussion of class material or participation in co-curricular activities. Research by George Kuh, director of NSSE, demonstrates that when students are more engaged in learning they derive more satisfaction from their university experience, learn significantly more, and are more likely to complete their degree. Students who are engaged in university are also more likely to continue to remain engaged citizens in their community.

Students seem to learn best when their curiosity is engaged and they can feel the link between the material and their own past, present or future lives. Given this, good teaching is about fostering curiosity. It is about finding, fueling, and firing up the links and creating experience within and between learners. Course content exists to be played with, tossed around until it becomes pertinent.

Clarissa Green, Nursing - 3M Teaching Award Winner
The University of British Columbia


The National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) is an instrument used to measure student engagement. The survey asks undergraduates to respond to questions regarding how they spend their time, their interactions with people in the university community, and their assessment of classes. The responses are categorized into five benchmarks of effective educational practice:

  • Level of Academic Challenge
  • Active and Collaborative Learning
  • Student-Faculty Interaction
  • Enriching Educational Experiences
  • Supportive Campus Environment

Resources - Student Engagement

Making it Real: Student Engagement by Mike Atkinson (Reflections Newsletter Excerpt)
Activities for Large Classes
Navigating the Bumpy Road to Student-Centered Instruction
Experiential Learning in Higher Education: Linking Classroom and Community
Experiential Learning Articles of Interest
Case-Based Teaching
"Students Seeking Greater Challenges" (Western News Article) - May 10, 2007

"Western Students Take Part in NSSE" (Western News Article) - March 17, 2006

NSSE and the Student Voice - April 26, 2007 Leaders' Meeting (Dr. Debra Dawson)

Student Engagement and Cultures of Self-Discovery (Dr. Debra Dawson)

Books and Articles

Carini, R., Kuh G., and Klein, S. (2006). Student Engagement and Student Learning. Research in Higher Education. 47(1), 1-32.
Chickering, A.W. and Gamson, Z.F. (1987). Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education. American Association of Higher Education Bulletin. 3-7.
Gibson, C. (2006). Student Engagement and Information Literacy. Chicago: Association of College and Research Libraries.
Kuh, G., Kinzie, J., Schuh, J.H., and Whitt, E.J. (2005). Assessing Conditions to Enhance Educational Effectiveness: The Inventory for Student Engagement and Success. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Kuh, G. (2003). What we're learning about student engagement from NSSE. Change (March/April), 24-32.
Porter, S.R. (2006). Institutional Structures and Student Engagement. Research in Higher Education. 47(5), 521-558.
Steffes, J. (2004). Creating powerful learning environments beyond the classroom. Change, 36, 46-50.

Problem-based Learning
Problem-based learning (PBL) is an "active learning" strategy characterized by the use of open-ended problems.
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Experiential Learning

As a complement to undergraduate and graduate students’ classroom learning, experiential learning activities – such as internships, co-op, community engaged learning and job shadow – ask students to apply theoretical knowledge in real-world environments. These opportunities require students to step outside the university and consider how community, industry and/or field experience might influence their academic learning and personal development.

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