Challenges to innovation: Obstacles encountered on a journey to engage students

Dave Towey, Lauren Knowles, Doran Lamb, Prapa Rattadilok, James Walker

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

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Purpose – As an interdisciplinary team of higher education (HE) professionals,
teaching in the first Sino-foreign HE institution (SfHEI) in mainland China, we
wanted to investigate how best to enhance student engagement and interaction
in our classrooms. Our various backgrounds and experiences led us to decide to
investigate the potential positive impact that electronic feedback devices (such
as clickers) could have. We were motivated in part by the literature surrounding
the so-called Chinese learner, or Confucian Heritage Culture (CHC) learners,
but mostly from a desire to see more engagement in our classes.
To conduct this investigation, we identified several technologies to deploy and
monitor in our classes, and designed a research project aimed to rigorously
assess the impact. Unfortunately, our research efforts almost immediately faced
challenges that almost ended the study before it began. The obstacles
encountered were at the global level (such as import restrictions); the study level
(losing access to data); the personal level (deficits in time, skills, and training);
the professional level (limited institutional support for the attempted innovation);
and even at the implementation level (losing access to the tool being studied).
While some of the challenges may be commonly encountered (such as the time
constraints for academics to perform action and other research), many of our
experiences were unique to our SfHEI context.
This paper describes the background, context, and current status of our
investigation. It lists some of the challenges faced in conducting the research,
offering reflections and potential strategies for other researchers facing similar
Design/methodology/approach – Our core investigation centres on the
examination and comparison of different tools and devices to facilitate student
responsiveness, interaction, and engagement. Literature reviews, action research,
and comparative study (involving deployment of the technologies in our various
classroom settings) form the main tools, supplemented by reflective practice and
Findings – In addition to reporting on our preliminary findings from the core
investigation, this paper lists some of the major challenges encountered in the
research. Both of these issues should be of interest to researchers planning
similar studies, regardless of their institutional context.
Originality/value/implications – As the first SfHEI, our setting is original, and,
we believe, our paper is the first to enumerate the challenges faced in our
context to researching and delivering student engagement innovation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 2019 International Conference on Open and Innovative Education (ICOIE 2019)
EditorsKam Cheong Li, Eva Tsang
Place of PublicationHong Kong
PublisherThe Open University of Hong Kong
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9789888439621
ISBN (Print)9789888439621
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Event2019 International Conference on Open and Innovative Education - Open University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Duration: 10 Jul 201912 Jul 2019


Conference2019 International Conference on Open and Innovative Education
Abbreviated titleICOIE 2019
Country/TerritoryHong Kong
CityHong Kong
Internet address


  • education innovation
  • classroom interaction
  • student feedback mechanisms
  • Sino-foreign higher education
  • reflective practice
  • obstacles


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