Why is Public Engagement important for teaching and learning?

Public engagement (PE) is increasingly regarded as an important driver in the teaching and learning strategies within higher education (HE), with benefits to students including increased confidence, greater employability and enhanced development and application of knowledge (Higher Education Funding Council, 2017). For example, embedding PE in the learning experience can create opportunities for students to find meaning and relevance in their academic work (Furco, 2010) and develop graduate attributes related to independent, collaborative and employment-based learning (National Coordinating Centre for Engagement, 2011). However, there has been limited work exploring how to embed PE into the HE curriculum using sustainable and innovative teaching methods.

A recent report by HEFCE (2017) highlights the benefits of embedding public engagement practice into the student experience, including improved communication skills and enhanced learning. It also equips students with transferable skills and improves their employability. Synthesising and disseminating research for wider audiences requires students to be active learners, engaging with methods such as application and evaluation of knowledge that lead to deeper and more associative processing of material (Kennedy & Cutts, 2005). Active learning is widely regarded to encourage deep learning and student ownership of their learning, whilst enabling teachers to participate in more active engagement with students (HEA, accessed 2018). Teaching and learning strategies that require students to synthesise theoretical, practical and policy developments and consider research from a range of stakeholder perspectives also aligns with the Department of Psychology’s ethos of theoretically informed applied psychology.

In sum, incorporating innovative PE methods into our undergraduate and postgraduate teaching will highlight the value in applying academic knowledge to “real-word” settings, working collaboratively and making a contribution to society. These PE methods will provide students with new research-led new skills to add to their toolkit as a "Bath" graduate, with transferable skills for employment and enhanced communication abilities.