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Chapter 1: What is student engagement in learning?

What is student engagement in learning? (Irish Survey of Student Engagement; Suirbhé na hÉireann ar Rannpháirtíocht na Mac Léinn) invites responses from first year undergraduate, final year undergraduate and taught postgraduate students in 25 higher education institutions in Ireland.

There is a second survey, which is designed for postgraduate research (PGR) students (Masters by research and doctoral degree students). PGR runs every two years.

People holding signs
Senator Annie Hoey launches the National Report 2021

What is student engagement in learning?

The term ‘student engagement’ is used in educational contexts to refer to a range of related, but distinct, understandings of the interaction between students and the higher education institutions they attend. Most, if not all, interpretations of student engagement are based on the extent to which students actively avail of opportunities to involve themselves in ‘educationally beneficial’ activities and the extent to which institutions enable, facilitate, and encourage such  involvement. focuses on students’ engagement with their learning and their learning environments. It does not directly explore, for example, students’ central involvement in quality assurance or institutional decision-making.

Accordingly, for the purposes of, student engagement reflects two key elements. The first is the amount of time and effort that students put into their studies and other educationally beneficial activities. The second is how higher education institutions deploy resources and organise curricula and other learning opportunities to encourage students to participate fully in meaningful activities that are linked to learning.

Objectives of

The main rationale for the surveys is to provide benefits to each institution and its students by helping to improve feedback and to inform appropriate follow-up action. The objectives of are:

  • To increase transparency in relation to the student experience of, and engagement with, higher education.
  • To enable direct student input in expressing their experience and engagement with their higher education institution.
  • To facilitate higher education institutions’ efforts to reflect that engagement and those experiences in their policy and practice in an impactful way.
  • To help institutions identify areas of strength in how students engage, so that they can continue and strengthen these practices.
  • To help institutions identify areas requiring further development or improvement in how students engage so they can respond.
  • To serve as a guide for continual enhancement of institutions’ teaching and learning and student engagement.
  • To facilitate comparison with other higher education systems nationally, sectorally, and internationally.