Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Student engagement more complex, changeable than thought

Date:
June 20, 2013
Source:
University of Pittsburgh
Summary:
A student who shows up on time for school and listens respectfully in class might appear fully engaged to outside observers, including teachers. But other measures of student engagement, including the student's emotional and cognitive involvement with the course material, may tell a different story -- one that could help teachers recognize students who are becoming less invested in their studies, according to a new study.

A student who shows up on time for school and listens respectfully in class might appear fully engaged to outside observers, including teachers. But other measures of student engagement, including the student's emotional and cognitive involvement with the course material, may tell a different story -- one that could help teachers recognize students who are becoming less invested in their studies, according to a new study coauthored by a University of Pittsburgh researcher.

More importantly for educators, the study, published online in the professional journal Learning and Instruction, suggests that student engagement -- essential for success in school -- is malleable, and can be improved by promoting a positive school environment. The result paves the way for future work to offer teachers diagnostic tools for recognizing disengagement, as well as strategies for creating a school environment more conducive to student engagement.

"Enhancing student engagement has been identified as the key to addressing problems of low achievement, high levels of student misbehavior, alienation, and high dropout rates," said Ming-Te Wang, assistant professor of psychology in education in the School of Education and of psychology in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences at Pitt, who coauthored the study with Jacquelynne S. Eccles, the Wilbert McKeachie and Paul Pintrich Distinguished University Professor of Psychology and Education at the University of Michigan.

"When we talk about student engagement, we tend to talk only about student behavior," Wang added. "But my coauthor and I feel like that doesn't tell us the whole story. Emotion and cognition are also very important."

Wang and Eccles' study is among the first attempts by researchers to use data to explore a multidimensional approach to the question of student engagement. In the past, only behavioral measures of student engagement -- such as class attendance, turning in homework on time, and classroom participation -- had been evaluated when gauging student engagement. By conducting a study linking students' perceptions of the school environment with behavior, the authors have provided one of the first pieces of empirical research supporting the viability of the multidimensional perspective, which had previously been largely theoretical.

The researchers designed a 100-question survey that includes the evaluation of emotional engagement and cognitive engagement. Sample survey questions that tested emotional engagement in classes across all subject areas asked students to agree or disagree with statements such as "I find schoolwork interesting" and "I feel excited by the work in school." Sample questions concerning cognitive engagement asked students to provide ratings to questions like "How often do you make academic plans for solving problems?" and "How often do you try to relate what you are studying to other things you know about?"

Using the survey, Wang and Eccles conducted a two-year longitudinal study, tracking approximately 1,200 Maryland students from seventh through eighth grade. The authors also measured students' perceptions of their environment by having them answer questions in five areas: school structure support, which gauged the clarity of teacher expectations; provision of choice, which assessed students' opportunities to make learning-related decisions; teaching for relevance, which evaluated the frequency of activities deemed relevant to students' personal interests and goals; students' perceptions of the emotional support offered by teachers; and students' perceptions of how positive their relationships were with fellow students.

The authors found that students who felt that the subject matter being taught and the activities provided by their teachers were meaningful and related to their goals were more emotionally and cognitively engaged than were their peers. Adding measures of emotional and cognitive engagement could broaden researchers' perspectives on student engagement in future work in this area.

Also among the paper's main findings is that the school environment can and, indeed, should be changed if it is impeding student engagement. A positive and supportive school environment is marked, Wang said, by "positive relationships with teachers and peers. Schools must provide opportunities for students to make their own choices. But they also must create a more structured environment so students know what to do, what to expect, from school." Wang also noted, however, that there is no "one size fits all" strategy to the problem of student engagement.

"Usually people say, 'Yes, autonomy is beneficial. We want to provide students with choices in school,'" Wang said. "This is the case for high achievers, but not low achievers. Low achievers want more structure, more guidelines."

As a result, Wang said, teachers must take into account individual variation among students in order to fulfill the needs of each student.

Wang's current work, undertaken in partnership with six Allegheny County school districts, focuses on developing a diagnostic tool that teachers can use to identify students who are disengaged from school, with a specific emphasis on math and science classes.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Pittsburgh. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Ming-Te Wang, Jacquelynne S. Eccles. School context, achievement motivation, and academic engagement: A longitudinal study of school engagement using a multidimensional perspective. Learning and Instruction, 2013; 28: 12 DOI: 10.1016/j.learninstruc.2013.04.002

Cite This Page:

University of Pittsburgh. "Student engagement more complex, changeable than thought." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 June 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130620162844.htm>.
University of Pittsburgh. (2013, June 20). Student engagement more complex, changeable than thought. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130620162844.htm
University of Pittsburgh. "Student engagement more complex, changeable than thought." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130620162844.htm (accessed July 23, 2014).

Share This




More Science & Society News

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law

Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law

AP (July 22, 2014) Two federal appeals courts issued conflicting rulings Tuesday on the legality of the federally-run healthcare exchange that operates in 36 states. (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
What Self-Made Women Need to Know Financially Before Getting Hitched

What Self-Made Women Need to Know Financially Before Getting Hitched

TheStreet (July 21, 2014) Halle Berry was recently ordered to pay her ex-boyfriend Gabriel Aubry $16,000 a month in child support by a California judge for their daughter Nahla. As women make strides in the workforce, they are increasingly left holding the bag when relationships end regardless of marital status. 'What Monied Women Need to Know Before Getting Married or Cohabitating' discusses information such as debt incurred during the marriage is both spouse's responsibility at divorce, whether after ten years of marriage spouses are entitled to half of everything and why property acquired within the marriage is fair game without a pre-nup. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com
$23.6 Billion Awarded To Widow In Smoking Lawsuit

$23.6 Billion Awarded To Widow In Smoking Lawsuit

Newsy (July 20, 2014) Cynthia Robinson claims R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company hid the health and addiction risks of its products, leading to the death of her husband in 1996. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Clock Ticks Down on Internet Speed Debate

Clock Ticks Down on Internet Speed Debate

Reuters - US Online Video (July 18, 2014) The FCC received more than 800,000 comments on whether and how internet speeds should be regulated, even crashing its system. Lily Jamali reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins