The common view is to think of students as either engaged or not, however that is not the case. Fredricks writes, that it “can be short term and situation specific or long term and stable.” (Fredricks, et. al., p. 61) The Teaching Professor issued a newsletter, exploring the participation-engagement relationship. The two-study design with most of its eight hypotheses and three research questions confirming this conclusion: “oral participation is not a good indicator of engagement.” (Frymier and Houser, p. 99).
The research team indicated engagement as something they call “nonverbal attentiveness”. It is associated with behaviors, such as frequent eye contact, upright posture, seat location (closer to the front than the back), note taking, and positive facial expressions.
Most of the research focused on three aspects: behavioral engagement, emotional engagement, and cognitive engagement.
Behaviorally engaged students follow classroom rules and norms. Their behaviors demonstrate concentration and attention, by asking questions and contributing during discussions.
Emotional engagement reveals student attitudes toward learning. Attitudes can range from simply liking what they’re doing to deeply valuing the knowledge and skills they gain.
Cognitive engagement involves students wanting to understand something and being willing to go beyond what’s required in order to accomplish learning goals.
Yes, these parts of engagement work differently, but are “dynamically interrelated within the individual.” (Fredricks, et. al., p. 61) We need to also think about how engagement interacts with other aspects of learning, such as motivation and self-efficacy. We need to think about other aspects in order to help students succeed because engagement is an essential part of learning.