Student engagement through academic writing: process reflections of a community of enquiry

Student engagement is a broad term that is used in HE to convey the ways that students are involved, participate and are represented. Engagement through academic writing, leading to the co-production of a peer-reviewed student journal ‘Spark’, has been the focus of engagement with students from the Education Studies and Early Childhood Studies programmes in the Faculty of Education, Health and Community at LJMU. This student journal publication was intended to showcase and celebrate high quality academic writing produced by students, however, we have also found it an opportunity to realise and engage student-researcher aspirations among undergraduates. ‘Spark’ evolved within a community of enquiry framework and has a team approach to the editing and publication processes. The ‘editorial team’ of Spark, comprised of students and staff, have worked together to organically restructure the editorial process of the journal. Primarily, the aim was to enable students to see themselves as researchers, ‘producers of knowledge’ (Neary, 2009) and participants in academic and scholarly activity. Later, revisions to the process further allowed representational and democratic voice of students to emerge, as student-researchers engaged in authentic academic practices, particularly in relation to writing and editorial decision making. This presentation will provide an overview of the process, and will include the reflections and perspective of the students and staff who have been part of the editorial team. It will give consideration to the benefits and limitations of enquiry led methods, solution focussed process and democratic practice within the context of an Education Studies programme. Finally, there will recommendations made for others to take account of when looking to engage students through their academic writing or in a community of enquiry.

Diahann Gallard, Angela Daly, Dr Elizabeth Smears, Angela Garden, Lewis Parry, Leanne Mills
Liverpool John Moores University