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A critical reflection on a research partnership


This critical reflection asks what contributions a research partnership, active between 1997 and 2014, made to knowledge about student learning in higher education. It focuses on three overarching projects. The first, on assessment, addressed ways to empower students in assessment processes and make them fairer for students from diverse backgrounds. The second, on student retention and success, identified ways for students to integrate into higher education while also advocating that institutions adapt their cultures and practices to meet the needs of students from diverse backgrounds. The third, on student engagement, attracted considerable interest for a conceptual organiser of this complex construct. It included ten proposals for action and recognised the impact of non-institutional factors on engagement. It also found that engagement is best researched within institutions. A critical reflection on the influences of the projects suggests that their impact on assessment was negligible. However, the retention and engagement projects have influenced mainstream thinking.

Published: 2018-07-18
Pages:1 to 12
Section:Invited Feature
How to Cite
Zepke, N., & Leach, L. (2018). A critical reflection on a research partnership. Student Success, 9(3), 1-12.

Author Biographies

Massey University
New Zealand New Zealand

Nick Zepke is a recently retired Associate Professor in adult education in the Institute of Education at Massey University in New Zealand. He has taught, researches and publishes on three interrelated themes: learning centred teaching with a special focus on the first-year experience in higher education, policy studies in higher education, and lifelong and life-wide education. He has published six books, more than 100 articles in international and New Zealand journals, and numerous commissioned reports on these themes. Since 2009 he has researched student engagement in higher education. He has published a book, 19 articles and book chapters on this subject, often in collaboration with Linda Leach. His most recent work focuses on the connection between politics and student engagement.

Massey University
New Zealand New Zealand

Linda Leach began her teaching career as a primary school teacher but was involved in tertiary learning and teaching for over 30 years. She worked in adult and community education, polytechnics and a university in learning support and academic development roles. She taught a variety of undergraduate and postgraduate courses on learning theories, how adults learn, how to teach adults and assessment. Her research and publications focused on student retention, student engagement and student outcomes but included assessment, foundation education, and adult literacy and numeracy. She often worked in collaboration with Nick Zepke on these projects. While now “officially” retired, she continues to supervise some doctoral students and has taught two postgraduate courses this semester.

Open Access Journal
ISSN 2205-0795