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Sparks Series: Helping students fulfil their hopes for higher education

February 20 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

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Speaker: Kathleen M. Quinlan


Although students’ hopes for education are vital to both ensuring student engagement and satisfaction, there is surprisingly little research on what students want from their overall learning experience in higher education. In this study (Quinlan & Salmen, 2019a), we asked more than 1700 students in one UK university open-ended questions about what they wanted from their learning experience in higher education and how that has turned out for them. Through thematic coding, we identified five key hopes. We will discuss the findings with reference to Quinlan’s (2016a) framework of key relationships in higher education, emphasising the emotional and relational nature of students’ hopes. In Quinlan and Salmen (2019a), we also gathered examples of students’ most powerful learning experiences, which will be used to illustrate how teachers can enrich those five key relationships. Through small group discussion, we will work together to explore further practical applications in our own teaching.


Dr Kathleen M. Quinlan is Reader in Higher Education and Director of the Centre for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Kent. She holds a PhD in Education from the Stanford School of Education and has researched teaching and learning in higher education for more than 20 years. She has led educational development programmes at The Australian National University, Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, and the University of Oxford and served as Educator-in- Residence (August 2014) at the National University of Singapore.

Her recent work focuses on emotions in learning and teaching in higher education. She is researching what interests students about their subject and about studying in higher education, as well as the link between teachers’ emotions and their values. She is the author of the book, How Higher Education Feels: Commentaries on Poems that Illuminate Emotions in Learning and Teaching (Sense Publishers, 2016).


Seminar Room
Beacon House Study Centre
Bristol, BS8 1TU United Kingdom
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Bristol Institute for Learning and Teaching