Engaging and/or Effective? Students’ Evaluation of Pedagogical Practices in Higher Education

Document Type


Publication Date



In recent years, higher education institutions have emphasized pedagogical practices that increase student engagement and are said to be effective. However, most of the research on ‘effective’ practices often do not make the distinction between what students like—or what they find engaging—and what practices they feel they learn from—or what they understand as effective. Thus, this research sheds light on the distinction between practices that are engaging, effective, both, or neither. Through interviews with students (n = 32), we uncovered four areas regarding what students think about pedagogical practices: Practices they felt engaging and effective were those high in personal involvement and helped with idea retention while those they found initially unengaging but effective were activities with a lot of independent work, may seem monotonous, but helped reinforce ideas. Practices they felt engaging but not effective were easy practices that did little for critical thinking while those they did not find engaging and effective were ones that created an unconducive environment that led to lower motivation. These themes help prompt critical reflection about how students perceive different pedagogical practices, and what higher education faculty can intentionally use, adapt, or avoid.