An introduction to Engaged Learning for PhD students


Research & Valorization

Target audience

The target audience is intended to be multidisciplinary and open to any PhD

Scientific and organizing Committee

Noel Klima (, +32 486 344 258) - IDC Crime, Criminology & Criminal Policy, Faculty of Law & Criminology, Ghent University
Courtney Marsh - Faculty of Law & Criminology, Ghent University
Alexis Dewaele - Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, Department of Experimental Clinical and Health Psychology, Ghent University
Kris Rutten - Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, Department of Educational Sciences, Ghent University
Leen Van Gijsel - Educational Quality Assurance Office, Department of Educational Policy, Ghent University
Saïla Quald Chaib - Faculty of Law & Criminology, Department of European, Public and International Law, Ghent University
Ellen Desmet - Faculty of Law & Criminology, Department of European, Public and International Law, Ghent University


We define Engaged Learning as the process where students apply the theory learned at Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) to a context outside of the HEI by addressing societal concerns, challenges, or needs while producing knowledge in an equitable, mutually beneficial partnership. A large emphasis for our project has been on the concept of reciprocity, whereby the community not only receives a service by those in HEIs but are also actively involved, engaged, and contribute to the overall learning process. This, in addition to the benefits students receive, results in students and community partners co-producing knowledge for mutual benefit.

We aim to push forward the agenda of the University as a part of an ecosystem of knowledge production addressing public problem-solving. With this framework in mind, addressing the concept of Engaged Learning at an early stage (such as the PhD level) has been thought most prudent in pushing forward this agenda. Though of course not every PhD researcher will go on to work in university or teaching roles, most of those who do enter those roles have completed a PhD. If given the tools before teaching even begins, it becomes easier to implement them into course material rather than re-working courses that were never envisioned to have such elements. Further, those who do not take up roles within academia may very well end up in positions where they can broker the role of Engaged Learning from the community perspective, which is equally necessary in this equation.


The approach of this course is primarily from a meta and theoretical level, thus contributing to the overall applicability to being interdisciplinary in nature. The course is also delivered over three sessions, each of which is taught by a lecturer from a different discipline, along with guest speakers from more varied backgrounds, drawing on experiences from their own work, further enhancing the interdisciplinarity of the content. Though only three disciplines are officially represented, and though this is still interdisciplinary in itself, the content of the course will be taught at such a level that the skills gained can be applied to other disciplines. In addition, community representatives will be invited to complement the academic side of the topic by providing insights of the do’s and don’ts in academic-practice cooperation.

Three 2-hour sessions held over a three-week period (i.e. one session per week):

  • Session 1: Engaged Learning from a university perspective; how to work with the University to integrate Engaged Learning into your course.
  • Session 2: Engaged Learning within the University curriculum; how to implement Engaged Learning into the course curricula and how to engage the students so they receive the most benefits possible from the course.
  • Session 3: Engaged Learning and the community; how to activate community engagement with the Engaged Learning course with a focus on mutual partnership between the community and university actors.


Session 1:  
Session 2: 
Session 3: 


  • Session 1: 

Noel Klima is coordinator of the interdisciplinary consortium with focus on societal impact IDC Crime, Criminology & Criminal Policy. Noel Klima is leading the Ghent team in the Erasmus+ project Communities and Students Together (CaST), a project researching the Engaged Learning landscape across Europe. He is also involved as senior researcher in the Erasmus+ project SEU – Socially Engaged Universities and engaged in other research and teaching innovation initiatives.

Leen Van Gijsel is an educational developer at the Educational Quality Assurance Office, which is part of the Department of Educational Policy at Ghent University, where she focuses on social impact and sustainability.   In this role she stimulates individual lecturers as well as entire degree programmes to integrate social impact into the curriculum. As Community Service Learning is considered a powerful approach to reach such social impact, she has been building a profound expertise on this methodology.

  • Session 2: 

Courtney Marsh is a senior scientific researcher at Ghent University’s IDC consortium ‘Crime, Criminology & Criminal Policy’ based at the Institute for International Research on Criminal Policy (IRCP), Faculty of Law & Criminology & Social Law at Ghent University. She is currently involved as a researcher in the CaST – Communities and Students Together – Erasmus+ 2019 Key Action 2 Strategic Partnerships for Higher Education. She is co-editor of the compendium “Engaged learning in Europe” and co-author of the report “State of the art of Engaged Learning in Europe”.

Saïla Ouald-Chaib is a senior researcher at the Human Rights Centre of Ghent University. She is currently the coordinator and co-lecturer of the course Legal Clinic Human rights and Migration Law of the Human Rights Centre. She  obtained a bachelor’s degree in Law (2005) at KULAK (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven campus Kortrijk) and her Masters degree in Law (2008) at Ghent University. In 2015, she obtained her doctoral degree at Ghent University with the doctoral thesis “Belief in Justice.

Ellen Desmet is an Assistant Professor of Migration Law. She teaches Belgian, European, and international migration law as well as legal anthropology, and coordinates the migration law component of the Human Rights and Migration Law Clinic. Her research interests are situated in the field of asylum and migration law, with particular attention for human and children’s rights implications, as well as social-scientific perspectives.

  • Session 3: 

Alexis Dewaele is senior lecturer in qualitative research methods in clinical psychology as well as coordinator of PSYNC (, a Ghent University interdisciplinary consortium dedicated to improving the mental health of all citizens, running research projects in close collaboration with diverse stakeholder groups, and with a clear focus on generating real world impact and societal innovations.

Registration fee

Free of charge for Doctoral School members. The no show policy applies.


Follow this link:  Registration is now closed.

Number of participants




Evaluation methods and criteria in DTP (Doctoral Training Programme)

Attend the three sessions and participate actively in the interactive part of the sessions.