Learning environments and student engagement with their learning in tertiary settings

Funding year: 
2 years
Massey University
Post school sector
Project start date: 
January 2008
Project end date: 
January 2010
Principal investigator(s): 
Nick Zepke
Research team members: 
Linda Leach
Research partners: 
Massey University, with nine partners including one wänanga, two universities, four polytechnics, one PTE, and one large community provider

Project Description

This Teaching and Learning Research Initiative (TLRI) project, “Learning Environments and Student Engagement with Learning in Tertiary Settings”, researched student engagement in nine tertiary education institutions: two universities, four institutes of technology, one wānanga;, one private training provider and one community organisation. It investigated the nature and importance of environmental influences on student engagement with their learning. The project was conducted on two levels: first, it sought information about student engagement at the local level of each partner institution; and secondly, it attempted to gain an understanding of engagement across the nine institutions. The project was conducted in four phases: the first completed a review of literature to inform the project; the second used key findings about student engagement from the literature review to construct a questionnaire for first-time enrolled students; the third interviewed selected students in order to follow up key findings identified in the student survey; the fourth surveyed tertiary teachers in these nine settings to identify their approaches to achieving student engagement. Findings provided insights into ways of creating learning environments that engage learners.

Project Outputs



Zepke, N., Leach, L., & Butler, P. (2011). Non-institutional influences and student perceptions of success. Studies in Higher Education, 36(2), 227-242.

Zepke, N. (2011). Understanding teaching, motivation and external influences in student engagement:  How can complexity thinking help? Research in Post-compulsory Education, 16 (1) 1-24.

Leach, L. & Zepke, N. (2011). Engaging students in learning: A review of a conceptual organiser. Higher Education Research & Development, 30(2), 193-204.



Zepke, N. & Leach, L. (2010). Rethinking student success:  Reaching beyond hard outcomes. Teaching in Higher Education, 16 (6), 661-673.

Zepke, N., Leach, L. (2010). Improving student engagement: Ten proposals for action. Active Learning in Higher Education, 11, (3),167-177.

Zepke, N., Leach, L. & Butler, P. (2010). Student engagement in post compulsory education: Learner motivation and action. Research. Post Compulsory Education,15 (1), 1-17.


Presentations, conferences and workshops

Zepke, N., Leach L., (2009). Student motivation and engagement in learning.  The student experience. Proceedings of the 32nd Annual International HERDSA Conference, Darwin 6-9 July 2009, pp. 529-538.



Zepke, N.,  Leach, L.,  Anderson, H.,  Ayrton, A.,  Butler, P., Henderson, J.,  Hoffman, J., Isaacs, P., , Ross, C., Russell, B.,  Slater, G., Solomon, K.,  Wilson, S., and  Wiseley, A (2008) Improving Student Engagement in Post-School Settings: an Annotated Bibliography. Wellington. Teaching and Learning Research Initiative with Ako Aotearoa