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School of Politics and International Relations

Our work with our students

We are always looking for ways to work with our students to make their experience at the School of Politics and International Relations (SPIR) better. Here you will find links to some of the projects and plans we have been undertaking.

Understanding student engagement in the online learning era

Dr James Strong, November 2021, Funded by the Westfield Fund

During the 2020-21 academic year, I conducted a three-stage analysis of student engagement in the School of Politics and International Relations at Queen Mary University of London. I identified clear links between available measures of student engagement and student attainment, and noted that apparent demographic attainment gaps in fact appeared to reflect differential engagement rates. Through surveys and focus groups, I identified a series of key drivers of student engagement. Students engaged better when they felt more confident, more supported and more interested in both the subject matter they were studying and the ways in which they were studying it. Those who felt able to ask for help – from staff, but also from their fellow students – were generally able to overcome challenges and to balance competing demands on their time. Those who felt confident about their skills and knowledge experienced a virtuous cycle of mutually-reinforcing engagement and mastery. Those who felt less confident tended to respond by disengaging further, triggering a vicious cycle of mutually-reinforcing disengagement and difficulty.

View the full report: Understanding student engagement in the online learning era [PDF 585KB]

Queen Mary Academy Fellowship project: Undergraduate academic political literacy and inquiry

Dr Nick Hostettler

Dr Nick Hostettler is a Fellow of the Queen Mary Academy, working on the teaching and learning of academic literacy and inquiry within the discipline of politics. The project is intended to make substantial contributions in two areas: SPIR’s understanding of how wider social and cultural processes impact on the development of academic political literacy and inquiry; and developing the School’s teaching so that it supports students in becoming more effective learners within the discipline.

Nick’s work draws together political, cultural, pedagogic and psychological research, with a view to the School’s teaching practices becoming more adequately theoretically grounded. Central to Nick’s thinking are Alasdair MacIntyre’s accounts of social practice, internal goods and common goods, and their conditions of possibility. MacIntyre’s work supports a strong version of pedagogic approaches based on conceptions of communities of practice. It also grounds an understanding of how learning takes place through authentic practice, in contrast to ersatz and technicised practices. A key aim of the project is a re-orientation of both classroom teaching practices and student self-understanding away from the latter and towards helping students make progressive changes to their learning practices outside the classroom.

Queen Mary Academy Fellowship Project: Community Engaged Learning, Student Development, and Civic Responsibility in Higher Education

Dr Joe Hoover

Dr Joe Hoover is a Fellow the Queen Mary Academy working on a project to develop and expand student placements within SIRP by introducing a community engaged learning (CEL) framework, and creating resources to help staff and students link teaching and learning in SPIR to the local community. The project expands on Joe's work establishing SPIR’s partnership with Citizens UK and setting up POL301, SPIR's civil society placement module. His fellowship project is inspired by John Dewey’s democratic and experiential approach to education and links to QMUL’s sector-leading reputation for public engagement and commitment to the local community as a civic university. Over the course of the fellowship Joe will be looking at the pedagogical literature on CEL, focusing on its history and development in the UK, while also surveying existing CEL practice at QMUL and in the UK more broadly, in order to develop a framework that facilitates the expansion of existing placements and integrates CEL into more modules.

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