Demographics & Patterns of Engagement

Author – Professor Kerri-Lee Krause, Griffith University, Australia

Professor Krause has held the title of Pro Vice Chancellor (Education) and Professor of Higher Education at the University of Western Sydney since 2011.  Prior to this Kerri-Lee was Chair in Higher Education and Director of the Griffith Institute for Higher Education. She is nationally and internationally recognised for her research on the contemporary first year student experience (FYE) and related issues of student engagement. She has led several national projects including, in 2004/5, a landmark ten-year trend study of the FYE in Australian universities.

Kerri-Lee has wide expertise pertaining to policy and practical dimensions of the FYE, including issues pertaining to curriculum, pedagogy and assessment. She currently co-directs the national ALTC project on assessment in the biological sciences, which brings together a collaborative cross-institutional team and involves broad consultation with universities across the nation. She also holds a three year Australian Research Council Discovery Grant to examine the effects of disciplinary cultures on approaches to undergraduate teaching and learning, with Professor Richard James, Centre for the Study of Higher Education, University of Melbourne.

She is leading a national study of the teaching-research nexus, funded by the ALTC, involving extensive collaboration with partners at the University of Melbourne, Queensland University of Technology and UK higher education experts, including Professors Alan Jenkins, Mick Healey and Paul Blackmore.

Kerri-Lee has extensive experience in disseminating the results of her student experience research in practical, accessible ways for higher education audiences. She regularly conducts workshops for academic and student support staff nationally and internationally, and has expertise in the development of resources to support university practitioners and policy makers. During a recent visiting professorship appointment to Nagoya University, Krause commenced a cross-national study of the differences in the FYEs of undergraduates in Australian, Japanese and US universities. She has also recently been an adviser to the Scottish Quality Assurance Agency on the first year experience and the teaching-research nexus enhancement themes.

Further information is available from the Griffith Institute for Higher Education.

First Year Curriculum Perspective

The “Demographics and Patterns of Engagement” commentary  (pdf 1.67MB) examines first year curriculum design and the case study exemplars from the perspectives of

  1. the mix of student demographic and background factors; and
  2. the notion of student engagement.

The author asks what does it mean to “engage” and to “be a university student” in modern Australian higher education? Do we need to articulate an “engagement framework” for a more differentiated approach to engagement to reflect the diversity that is so typical of our student cohorts in the first year? In her discussion, the author notes the “battleground” status of the first year curriculum and further observes that the notion of “curriculum” itself is contested and problematic.

The author also draws attention to recent major developments in the Australian tertiary sector that have now called call into question fundamental issues around what constitutes a university, what the distinguishing characteristics of a university curriculum might be, and the purpose and place of a university undergraduate degree. These questions, she says, are foundational to the present discussion on how we support students from diverse backgrounds and with diverse patterns of engagement in making the transition to first year university study, and importantly, how we establish the patterns of engagement that will assure persistence and success.