Lead author, Ella Kahu, on her research & women in science
Why do you think your research has received such significant downloads?
“The article develops a conceptual framework that synthesizes and clarifies a large body of research and theorizing around the concept of student engagement. I think the framework was what people in the discipline needed at the time because while there was agreement that student engagement is important, there was a lot of debate about what student engagement really is and importantly how it can be influenced.
My work clarifies those issues in a way that people find easy to understand. What has been interesting and gratifying for me is that the framework seems to have appeal and value for both research and practice. So not only are researchers using it to inform the design and analysis of research studies into aspects of student engagement in higher education but other staff are also using it to guide the initiatives and practices they use to increase student engagement.
That dual value is possibly one of the key reasons for the popularity of the research.”
What was your experience of getting published in such a high-profile journal?
“Getting the article into a highly rated journal was an important part of its success and was very satisfying for me at the time. The work was the first stage of my PhD project and my education supervisors suggested I submit it to Studies in Higher Education. I think my supervisors saw the value of the work but also believed that you might as well try the best journal (in terms of rankings but also in terms of appropriate readership) first.
The review process was actually quite straightforward (unlike some others I have experienced!). I received three positive reviews and only needed to make minor changes. Again, I think this is because the framework was what was needed in the field at the time.
My advice to early career researchers is to make sure the journal you are targeting accepts your kind of work (and within that, if you have time for the process, start at the top) and that the article is the best work you can do in terms of research rigour, links with literature, and clarity of writing.”
What do you see as the most significant impact of your research?
“For the article, as I said earlier, it is the dual impact on both research and practice that is significant. I also get a lot of pleasure and satisfaction when I am contacted by doctoral students who are using my work to inform their own research. Being a strong foundation that future research can build on is possibly the most significant impact research like this can have.”
Do you have any thoughts on women in science, and the importance of women’s voices in research being heard?
“I think all disciplines and sectors benefit from a diversity of voice.
Gender (along with other identity variables such as ethnicity and class) impacts on everything in the research process right from the questions we choose to ask through to the answers we find.
So getting more women’s research out there is critical. And that is particularly important in the social sciences because so much of human experience is linked to gender.
My home discipline is actually psychology, which sits in an in-between space of the hard and soft sciences (a very gendered distinction!). I don’t know the statistics but I imagine the social sciences including education are more balanced in terms of gender than the STEM sciences (although like all areas, that balance reduces further up the ranks of academia). That the social sciences including education are also seen as less prestigious than the STEM sciences is not, in my opinion, a coincidence.”