Student Engagement: A Multifaceted Construct

Most policy makers and educators agree that student engagement is a critical to improving learning outcomes. However, as we have learned, student engagement is a multifaceted construct that lacks a clear definition. In developing Learning List’s editorial reviews, we interview educators who have used featured products with students, and we ask interview respondents to explain how products engage students in learning.  Some educators explain student engagement in terms of students’ on-task behavior and participation in class activities, others recognize engagement when students enjoy learning, and still others say students are engaged when they want to learn and value what they are learning.  Our experience is not unusual.  A 2008 study by Lois Ruth Harris that explored teachers’ understandings of student engagement concluded that “teachers do not hold similar understandings of what student engagement means.”  Through a set of semi-structured interviews with teachers, Harris identified six qualitatively different categories of student engagement among teachers’ views. These included:

  1. Behaving: Students are well behaved and participate in class activities,
  2. Enjoying: Students enjoy school and have fun while learning,
  3. Being motivated: Students are motivated and confident in their ability to learn,
  4. Thinking: Students think about  what they are learning,
  5. Seeing purpose: Students see the purpose in what they are learning, and
  6. Owning: Students own and value their learning.

Over the next few weeks, this blog will consider the concept of student engagement with a focus on how school administrators and teachers can recognize meaningful engagement and select instructional materials that support and enhance efforts to improve engagement.


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