Conceptualising Student Engagement as a Theoretical Framework for Innovative Higher Education Practices

A Literature Review



Funded by the Irish Government (2020-2025), Designing Futures (DF) is a flagship university programme which provides a range of campus-based initiatives with the aim of supporting students to design their own personalised learning journey, equipping them for both their future lives and careers.  It is being implemented and evaluated using an iterative process according to the principles of Educational Design Research (McKenney and Reeves, 2018) and Developmental Evaluation (Patton, 2011).  This paper reports on a systematic review undertaken to scope out relevant theoretical frameworks for the project, in particular those that promote student engagement for all and enhance their belonging on campus.  Informed by a realist approach, the research team worked from an initial set of 2031 articles and to a final set of 53 texts.   The review outcomes are described according to three research questions, the goodness of fit of “student engagement” as a theoretical framework in this context; practices that foster effective student engagement; and research methodologies commonly deployed to promote student engagement.  Finally, a working theoretical model for the Designing Futures project is proposed based on the literature reviewed.  This utility of this model will be tested and refined as data is collected over the life cycle of the project.

Author Biographies

Connie O'Regan, University of Galway

Connie O’Regan, is a Postdoctoral Researcher based at the UNESCO Child & Family Research Centre. Following a career working in a range of direct support, research and project development roles, Connie is experienced in the design and implementation of research studies both within an academic setting and in an applied work setting

Natalie Walsh , University of Galway

Natalie Walsh is Director of Entrepreneurial Development at University of Galway.  Natalie is an experienced Director with a demonstrated history of working in the higher education sector. She is a highly skilled entrepreneurial educator and training professional with experience in business development, analytical skills, public speaking, people management and leading on projects of transformational change within the HEI sector.  Natalie holds a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) focused on Role Identity Theory and the Academic Entrepreneur in Trinity College Dublin and holds a Masters in Strategy, Innovation and People Management from University of Galway

Tony Hall, University of Galway

Tony Hall is a Personal Professor of Education, School of Education and Director of Educational Design Research for Designing Futures, University of Galway. Tony's research interests centre on design-based research (DBR) in educational settings. He is a Fellow of the International Society for Design and Development in Education (ISDDE), and General Editor of the international journal, Irish Educational Studies, published by Routledge/Taylor & Francis. Tony is currently a Joint Principal Investigator for the evaluation of the Designing Future programme at University of Galway.

Grace Mannion, University of Galway

Grace Mannion is the Designing Futures Project Manager at University of Galway.  She has previously worked in technical and leadership roles in the Medtech industry, and has spent many years working in Learning and Development in this sector, with a focus on graduate development, leadership skills and coaching.  Recently she has moved to Higher Education and is a thought leader in the development of undergraduate students, especially in relation to skills and competencies for their future careers.  

Michelle Millar, University of Galway

Michelle Millar is Professor of Political Science & Sociology and Dean of Students at University of Galway.  She is a Senior Research Fellow at the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre and has acted as Principal Investigator on several funded research projects, Michelle is currently a Joint Principal Investigator for the evaluation of the Designing Future programme at University of Galway.               






Research Articles