Engaging students at school and with learning: A relevant construct for all students

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<ul><li><p>Psychology in the Schools, Vol. 45(5), 2008 C 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.Published online in Wiley InterScience (www.interscience.wiley.com) DOI: 10.1002/pits.20302</p><p>ENGAGING STUDENTS AT SCHOOL AND WITH LEARNING:A RELEVANT CONSTRUCT FOR ALL STUDENTS</p><p>MICHAEL J. FURLONG</p><p>University of California, Santa BarbaraSANDRA L. CHRISTENSON</p><p>University of Minnesota</p><p>There is consensus that student engagement is a relevant and multidimensional construct that in-tegrates students thoughts, feelings, and behaviors (Fredericks, Blumenfeld, &amp; Paris, 2004; Furlonget al., 2003). Most typically, researchers have incorporated a three-part typology, emphasizing af-fective, behavioral, and cognitive dimensions of engagement (Finn, 1989; Fredericks et al., 2004;Jimerson, Campos, &amp; Greif, 2003). Practitioners, however, have often been highly influenced byacademic engaged time (i.e., time on task) or academic learning time (i.e., amount of time engagedcompleting an academically relevant task) when identifying a students difficulty in school and/ordesigning an intervention in collaboration with teachers. In this special issue, the articles representthe seminal nature of considering a four-part typologythe degree to which students are engagedacademically, behaviorally, cognitively, and affectively (i.e., psychologically) at school and withlearningfor creating an assessment-to-intervention link that enhances students connection to theschool environment. Even a cursory reading of the literature supports that student engagementis defined as a concept that requires psychological connections within the academic environment(e.g., positive relationships between adults and students and among peers) in addition to activestudent behavior (e.g., attendance, effort, prosocial behavior). Effective interventions address en-gagement comprehensively, not only focusing on academic or behavioral skill deficits, but also onthe social, interpersonal aspects of schooling, particularly the need for supportive connections toother adults and peers and the explicit programming for motivation to address students confidenceand apathy (Brophy, 2004).</p><p>Both academic and social aspects of school life are posited to be integral for student success,especially those students who are vulnerable to educational failure, showing signs of withdrawalfrom learning or motivational difficulties. McPartland (1994) provided an organizing frameworkfor broad interventions to engage students. In this 2 2 framework, the type of school goals(academic or social) interact with the nature of the concern (within or out-of-school experiences) toproduce four recommendations for engaging students. Opportunities for success in schoolwork andcommunicating the relevance of schooling experiences to students future endeavors are necessary tohelp students meet academic goals. Equally important, creating a caring and supportive environmentand helping students with personal problems are necessary to facilitate students reaching socialgoals. This framework also reifies that student performance in school is best conceptualized fromsystems theory (Bronfenbrenner, 1992), wherein students are engaged because of what students doin the classroom; however, students engagement is influenced by the context, including instructionalsupport from teachers and the academic and motivational home support for learning (Christenson &amp;Thurlow, 2004).</p><p>Correspondence to: Michael Furlong, University of California, Santa Barbara, Gevirtz Graduate School ofEducation, Department of Counseling, Clinical, and School Psychology, Santa Barbara, CA 93106. E-mail:mfurlong@education.ucsb.edu</p><p>365</p></li><li><p>366 Furlong and Christenson</p><p>Student engagement focuses on identification of functional risk variables rather than solelydemographic risk variables. With respect to a four-part typology, academic engagement is reflectedin the amount of time a student spends actually doing schoolwork or related projects in school orat home, the number of credits the student has accrued, and the amount of homework completed.Behavioral engagement is reflected in attendance, active participation in classes (e.g., asking ques-tions, participating in discussions), and/or involvement in extracurricular activities Academic andbehavioral engagement involves observable, less-inferential indicators. In contrast, cognitive andaffective engagements are internal indicators that are less observable. Cognitive engagement, whichrefers to the extent to which students perceive the relevance of school to future aspirations, isexpressed as interest in learning, goal setting, and the self-regulation of performance. Affective en-gagement refers to a sense of belonging and connection to and support by parents, teachers, and peers.Thus, student self-report measures may be the most valid and reliable way to capture these lattertwo types of engagement (Appleton, Christenson, Kim, &amp; Reschly, 2006). We know that indicatorsof cognitive and affective engagement are associated with positive learning outcomes (Frederickset al., 2004), are related to motivation (Reeve, Jang, Carrell, Jeon, &amp; Barch, 2004), and increasein response to specific teaching strategies (Marks, 2000). Given that school personnel cannot alterfamily circumstances (e.g., income or mobility), the focus on alterable variables, including the de-velopment of students perceived competence, personal goal setting, and interpersonal relationshipsto offer students optimism for a positive outcome are critical for school-based intervention efforts(Floyd, 1997; Worrell &amp; Hale, 2001).</p><p>Engagement is not conceptualized as an attribute of the student, but rather a state of being thatis highly influenced by contextual factorshome, school, and peersin relation to the capacity ofeach to provide consistent support for student learning (Wentzel, 1998). The distinction betweenindicators of and facilitators of engagement provides the conceptual base for creating an assessment-to-intervention link for students who are showing signs of disengagement. Indicators of engagementconvey a students degree or level of connection with school and learning such as attendance patterns,accrual of credits, and perceived competence. Facilitators of engagement are contextual factors thatinfluence the strength of the student connection with school, such as school discipline practices,parental supervision of homework completion, and peer attitudes toward academic accomplishment.Facilitators of engagement have implications for intervention, whereas indicators of engagement canbe used to guide identification proceduresinitiating referrals at the first signs of withdrawal, aswell as directing the progress monitoring of individual students and programs (Sinclair, Christenson,Lehr, &amp; Anderson, 2003). Facilitators are protective factorswhat guides the specific content andcontextual support provided to students of concern.</p><p>Student engagement has practical implications. It has been considered to be (a) the primarytheoretical model for understanding and intervening with potential dropouts to promote schoolcompletion; (b) the cornerstone of recent high school reform initiatives that explicitly focus onfostering high schoolers perceptions of competence and control, personal values and goals, andsocial connectedness to peers and teachers (National Research Council and Institute of Medicine,2004); (c) interrelated with the construct motivation to learn (Appleton et al., 2006), and (d) relevantfor all students who cross our school doors. Data from the 2006 High School Survey of StudentEngagement, based on responses from 81,499 students in grades 9 to 12 from 110 schools in26 states, illustrates the applicability of the engagement construct to all students (Yazzie-Mintz,2007). Students reported being less engaged across high school years, if they were male, if theywere from an ethnic group other than White or Asian, if they were lower socioeconomic levels,or if they were in special education rather than vocational, general education, or advanced classes.It is noteworthy that 72% of the students indicated they were engaged in school; disturbing isthe information from student self-reports that more than one fourth of students were not engaged.</p><p>Psychology in the Schools DOI: 10.1002/pits</p></li><li><p>Introduction 367</p><p>All schools have students who are uninvolved, apathetic, or discouraged learnerseven those schoolswithout the typical demographic-related risks (Brophy, 2004).</p><p>In this miniseries, six articles, three of which were presented as part of a symposium at the2005 annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, are included:</p><p> Appleton, Christenson, and Furlong described the interrelated conceptual and methodologicalissues of student engagement and provided specific recommendations, particularly aboutreaching consensus on the label and need for psychometrically sound measures.</p><p> McMahon, Keys, Viola, and Parnes proposed a model and examined the relationships amongschool stressors and resources; belonging; academic outcomes, specifically school satis-faction and academic self-efficacy; and psychological outcomes, specifically anxiety anddepression for low-income, non-White students in elementary and secondary schools.</p><p> Sharkey, You, and Schnoebelen examined a theoretically informed model to explain the rela-tionships between school assets, individual resilience, and student engagement for studentsat both high and low risk for disengagement based on levels of family assets, specificallyfamily support and relationship quality.</p><p> Based on the broaden-and-build theory, Reschly, Huebner, Appleton, and Antaramian exam-ined the role of positive emotions during school, adaptive coping, and student engagementamong a sample of adolescent students.</p><p> In a comparison of three approaches to reading instruction, Wigfield, Guthrie, Perencevich,Taboada, Lutz, McRae, and Barbosa examined the degree to which engaged reading addsexplanatory to students level of reading comprehension for fourth-grade students.</p><p> You, Furlong, Sharkey, Felix, Tanigwa, and Greif-Green examined the mediating role ofschool connectedness in the relation between three groups of students in grades 5 to 12 whohad different levels of exposure to peer victimization or bullying.</p><p>It is hoped that the six manuscripts and the reaction by Dr. Larry Kortering will advanceour knowledge of the construct of student engagement, scholarly inquiry of the impact of studentengagement on outcomes for all students, and understanding of the construct as a helpful heuristicfor intervention practices. We contend that paying attention to alterable functional risk factorstheidentifiers and early warning signs of disengagement, as well as the facilitators of engagementprovides a framework from which to create assessment-to-intervention links to enhance all studentsconnections in the school environment (Christenson et al., 2008; OFarrell, Morrison, &amp; Furlong,2006). In addition, it is clear from the studies reported in this miniseries that the role of otherrelated variables or constructs must be considered when understanding students disengagement atschool and with learning. We concur with Fredericks and her colleagues (2004) point that studentengagement serves as a useful metaconstruct.</p><p>As coeditors, we want to thank the authors in this miniseries. In addition, we know that wespeak for them when we state, May the much needed dialogue on the role of student engagementin school success for all students begin.</p><p>REFERENCESAppleton, J. J., Christenson, S. L., Kim, D., &amp; Reschly, A. L. (2006). Measuring cognitive and psychological engagement:</p><p>Validation of the Student Engagement Instrument. Journal of School Psychology, 44, 427 445.Brophy, J. (2004). Motivating students to learn (2nd ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Bronfenbrenner, U. (1992). Ecological systems theory. In R. Vasta (Ed.), Annals of child development. Six theories of child</p><p>development: Revised formulations and current issues (pp. 187 249). London: Jessica Kingsley.</p><p>Psychology in the Schools DOI: 10.1002/pits</p></li><li><p>368 Furlong and Christenson</p><p>Christenson, S. L., Reschly, A. L., Appleton, J. J., Berman, S., Spangers, D., &amp; Varro, P. (2008). Best practices in fosteringstudent engagement. In A. Thomas &amp; J. Grimes (Eds.), Best practices in school psychology V (pp. 1099 1120).Washington, DC: National Association of School Psychologists.</p><p>Christenson, S. L., &amp; Thurlow, M. L. (2004). School dropouts: Prevention considerations, interventions, and challenges.Current Directions in Psychological Science, 13, 36 39.</p><p>Finn, J. D. (1989). Withdrawing from school. Review of Educational Research, 59, 117 142.Floyd, C. (1997). Achieving despite the odds: A study of resilience among a group of African American high school seniors.</p><p>Journal of Negro Education, 65, 181 189.Fredericks, J. A., Blumenfeld, P. C., &amp; Paris, A. H. (2004). School engagement: Potential of the concept, state of the evidence.</p><p>Review of Educational Research, 74, 59 109.Furlong, M. J., Whipple, A. D., St. Jean, G., Simental, J., Soliz, A., &amp; Punthuna, S. (2003). Multiple contexts of school</p><p>engagement: Moving toward a unifying framework for educational research and practice. California School Psychologist,8, 99 114.</p><p>Jimerson, S. R., Campos, E., &amp; Greif, J. L. (2003). Toward an understanding of definitions and measures of school engagementand related terms. California School Psychologist, 8, 7 27.</p><p>Marks, H. M. (2000). Student engagement in instructional activity: Patterns in the elementary, middle, and high school years.American Educational Research Journal, 37, 153 184.</p><p>McPartland, J. M. (1994). Dropout prevention in theory and practice. In R. Rossi (Ed.), Schools and students at risk: Contextand framework for positive change (pp. 255 276). New York: Teachers College Press.</p><p>National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. (2004). Engaging schools: Fostering high school students motivationto learn. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.</p><p>OFarrell, S. L., Morrison, G. M., &amp; Furlong, M. J. (2006). School engagement. In G. G. Bear &amp; K. M. Minke (Eds.),Childrens needsIII: Development, prevention, and intervention (pp. 45 58). Bethesda, MD: National Association ofSchool Psychologists.</p><p>Reeve, J., Jang, H., Carrell, D., Jeon, S., &amp; Barch, J. (2004). Enhancing students engagement by increasing teachersautonomy support. Motivation and Emotion, 28, 147 169.</p><p>Sinclair, M. F., Christenson, S. L., Lehr, C. A., &amp; Anderson, A. R. (2003). Facilitating student engagement: Lessons learnedfrom Check &amp; Connect longitudinal studies. California School Psychologist, 8, 29 42.</p><p>Wentzel, K. R. (1998). Social relationships and motivation in middle school: The role of parents, teachers, and peers. Journalof Educational Psychology, 90, 202 209.</p><p>Worrell, F. C., &amp; Hale, R. L. (2001). The relationship of hope in the future and perceived school climate to school completion.School Psychology Quarterly, 16, 370 388.</p><p>Yazzie-Mintz, E. (2007). Voices of students on engag...</p></li></ul>

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