A student led session on reviving curiosity and student engagement

Ismah Irsalina Binti Irwandy (left) and Liv Camacho Wejbrandt (right)

First year student reps, Ismah Irsalina Binti Irwandy and Liv Camacho Wejbrandt, co-developed and delivered a workshop for lecturers at the Engineering and Informatics Teaching and Learning Away Day. Here they explain the part they played in developing the session, insights from their survey of students and staff on engaging teaching, and what they learned from delivering the session.  

Ismah and Liv are happy to share the resources used in the session and to advise staff and students from other schools on developing their own activities. 

What we did

In November 2023 we responded to a call from our school’s Director for Teaching and Learning (DTL), Dr Luis Ponce Cuspinero, asking for student representatives to develop and deliver a session on reviving curiosity and student engagement for the Engineering and Informatics School teaching and learning away day in January 2024.  

How we did it

Luis started by sharing the aims of the 50-minute session, which were to help lecturers understand the kinds of approaches to teaching and learning Engineering and Informatics students found most engaging and to encourage them to think about how they might better encourage their students’ curiosity and provide even more engaging teaching sessions. Ismah, who was the first to sign up, primarily worked with Luis on developing the questions and activities for the session. Liv joined a little later and led more on developing the presentation and delivery of the session. Planning meetings with Luis ran for between 15 to 30 minutes each week, over around 5 weeks. 

The first step was to develop a survey for Engineering and Informatics students to find out the kinds of teaching they find most engaging. Ismah brainstormed a long list of questions and, with Luis’ help, whittled them down to five, which were then put onto Poll Everywhere and sent to all students via the School Office.  (The questions are provided below). 

Our approach to designing the session was to make it interactive and engaging and to demonstrate how we like to be taught! The final session comprised three sections: 

(1) The ice breaker ‘reflective activity’: 

We developed a ‘pass the parcel’ style game, which was designed to get everyone energized and in the mood. Each table was given a bowl of folded paper slips, each printed with a prompt. Some were really simple, like ‘Describe a teacher that inspired you’, or, ‘Share an ‘aha’ moment you’ve have had while teaching’. Others were a bit more challenging, e.g.: ‘how would you re-design your module to make it more engaging?’ or, “Describe one of your modules as if to a 12-year-old”.  

On the day, we played music as the bowl was passed around the table and whoever was left holding it had a minute to pick out a slip and share their answer. At the end of the section, we asked people someone from each table to volunteer to share with the room their response to one of the questions.  

(2) The ‘How well do you know your students’ activity: 

We used Poll Everywhere to ask each of the five student survey questions to the room. After each question we reviewed the lecturer responses then shared the results from the student survey and briefly picked out where there were similarities and differences.  

(3) The ‘Embedding curiosity and engaging students’ activity 

We wanted to ensure lecturers were given a chance to apply insights from the first two activities so we then asked each table (team) to work together to embed curiosity and student engagement into a module.  One volunteer (the leader) from each table was to describe in brief (3 minutes) one of their modules, the teaching methods, type of assessment, and how feedback is provided. The team then had to come up with ideas/suggestions of how the module can be changed in order to make it more engaging and inspire curiosity in relation to: 

  • Teaching delivery (teaching methods) 
  • Assessment types 
  • Providing feedback 

We gave them 10 minutes to discuss then opened up the floor for team leaders to summarise their proposed changes.  

How it went

We got close to 70 responses to the student survey by the time of the away day (and have had more since!). We think it helped that we wrote the email and insisted the poll was at the top of the message (please do this poll – it will take 2 minutes) followed by the explanation.  

On the day the session went well. We played to our strengths (Liv is used to being on stage so took the lead) but it was really good to be doing it together.  We were concerned about balancing being fun and respectful, while also teaching challenging our lecturers. Happily, the audience were positive and the active approach to the session made it easier for us overall. However, it also meant we had to deal with unexpected outcomes and be confident in encouraging responses from the tables.   Also, while there were a few surprises in the outcomes of the student survey (including for us), it was great to see that there was also a lot of overlap and common ground.  

Liv concluded by impressing on lecturers to show their own love for their subjects and, for both of us, it was a rare opportunity to be able to say something we feel deeply about to lecturers.  

After the session we received lots of positive comments and had some great conversations, including with one lecturer who spoke with us for a long time asking about making his lectures more engaging. Also, we got a free lunch!  

Top Tips 

Our tips for other students are: 

  • It is definitely worth doing. Although it was a commitment at a busy time (we were studying for exams while developing the session), we felt the session had an impact and it made us feel like proper student representatives, particularly as, being first years, we hadn’t had many rep meetings by that point. 
  • You don’t have to start from scratch! We’re really happy for others to use and build on our approach and to chat with students and lecturers from other schools (see details of the activities from the session below and how to contact us).  

Comments and feedback 

I was incredibly impressed by Ismah and Liv’s contribution to the content and delivery of this session and have been busy encouraging Directors for Teaching and Learning from the other Sciences Schools I support to follow suit with their own students. My only regret is that Ismah and Liv’s session didn’t kick off the Teaching and Learning away day because it was a brilliant example of an engaging and active learning session which brought real energy to the day while providing that all-important student perspective.” (Dr Sam Hemsley, Academic Developer) 


Pass the parcel questions

Student survey questions


Please direct all queries to Luis Ponce Cuspinera.

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in Case Studies

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *