Students as co-researchers: a collaborative, community-based approach to the research and practice of technology enhanced learning

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This chapter explores community-based approaches to student engagement in researching their own practices, in particular, when this involves the use of digital media in their learning. Student engagement has been described as active involvement in one’s own learning, emphasising individual agency (Trowler, 2010). We argue for a relational view of agency (Edwards, 2005) involving dynamic realignment of thoughts and actions between different actors in response to problems and challenges. This has led to the development of a collaborative model of inquiry, with students and staff working on authentic research and knowledge production projects within disciplinary communities.
This methodology involves students acting as co-researchers in researching their own digital media practices. Digital practices often cross formal and informal boundaries, making authentic accounts difficult to obtain. Involving students as partners increases validity and shared purposes. Students can engage in meaningful research and reflect back on their own practice.
Three co-inquiry projects are presented, reporting on aims, methodologies and practical implications and challenges, including incentives, rewards, assessment constraints and equality of involvement. The findings demonstrate the need for continual re-negotiation of roles, rebalancing power relations and motivation within co-inquiry models. Addressing these more explicitly would ensure a more negotiated set of outcomes. We conclude that co-inquiry models are not quick fixes to student engagement but part of a longer term relational shift which takes time and mutual commitment to the process. Despite these challenges, this model offers potential as a more inclusive approach to scholarship and more authentic forms of student inquiry.

Co-inquiry, knowledge production, authenticity, agency, epistemic engagement, collaboration

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Student Engagement Handbook, Practice in Higher Education
EditorsElisabeth Dunne, Derfel Owen
ISBN (Electronic)9781781904244
ISBN (Print)9781781904237
Publication statusPublished - 5 Dec 2013


  • Agency
  • Collaboration
  • Participatory Methods
  • Higher Education
  • Engagement
  • Co-inquiry


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