Student engagement is one of the most reliable predictors of gains in learning for students1. The connection between young people’s engagement with school and their longer-term educational and occupational outcomes is well established. Students who are actively and authentically engaged with their schooling perform better academically and have a higher rate of school completion.
Student engagement facilitates examination of the relationship between students’ learning outcomes and the quality and degree of involvement with internal and external academic communities.
The definition typically used within Australian literature draws upon the referred work of Kuh (2001, 2009) who defines student engagement as a “student’s involvement in educationally purposeful activities” (Hu & Kuh 2001, p.3). Each student deserves to receive an education and understand the enjoyment of learning in an environment that is productive, comfortable and engaging.
Criteria of Disengagement
Fredricks, Blumenfeld and Paris (2004), explain that student engagement consists of emotional, behavioural and cognitive dimensions:
- “Emotional Engagement: The notion that a students’ emotional engagement with school is closely related to their attitude towards school and their motivation in school
- Behavioural Engagement: Denotes a student’s involvement in academic activities or participation in social or extracurricular activitie
- Cognitive Engagement: The students’ psychological investment in learning and their use of learning strategies.”
Motivating students is one of the major challenges that a teacher faces every day. Conceptualised as a student’s energy and drive to engage, learn, work effectively, and achieve their potential at school – motivation and engagement play a large role in a students’ interest and enjoyment of school (Martijn, 2006). Motivation is intrinsic within a student; however, the student does rely upon the teacher to encourage participation, engagement and motivation. Educators need to identify a medium of the curriculum and the ability to increase engagement, motivation and participation within students.
Measurement of Student Engagement
Table 1 summarises existing research on the link between student engagement and educational/occupational outcomes in multiple countries.
Willms (2003) used data from 43 countries (including Australia) that participated in the 2000 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) to investigate how emotional and behavioural engagement was associated with the characteristics of students and schools.
The PISA offers a “unique opportunity to student engagement across several countries as students approach the end of compulsory school.” 2 The two tables above explain the outcomes of the survey and examines several questions concerning students’ participation and sense of belonging. The two aspects of a young learners’ educational cycle are investigated because they represent a disposition towards school and life-long learning.
Tips for Enhancing Student Engagement and Motivation
Taken from various sources, below are just suggestions on how we might proactively begin to cultivate student engagement:
- Recognize and enhance one’s mental and physical stability. Teaching is stressful, and it is imperative that teachers take care of themselves. Engage in activities that are relaxing and physically challenging.
- Ensure the classroom environment is welcoming to students from all cultures. To be engaged, students need to feel that they are in an environment where they are accepted and affirmed.
- Allow students to work autonomously, enjoy learning relationships with peers, and feel they are competent to reach their goals. Allowing students to work autonomously and with others, developing their sense of competence, results in increased student motivation. This focuses on the cultivation of intrinsic motivation, which fosters self-determination that leads to engagement.
- Create learning opportunities that are active, collaborative, and promote learning relationships. 3
Creating and cultivating an environment for students which promotes originality, engagement, curiosity, motivation and success is not easy. It is an effort by the community to help provide the young learner with a holistic education and an engaging learning experience.
When looking at engagement and disengagement of young learners, we must look at all possible foundations; surrounding community (parents, extended relatives, friends) and their scholastic environment. It is a challenge faced not just by educators, but by parents and family members to ensure engagement with young learners studies. In an immediate knowledge-based society the aim would be to create young learners who have the ability to become life-long learners.