Year: 2019

Author: Bartle, Toby, Boon, Helen, Sarnyai, Zoltan

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Background and Scope: This review identified and evaluated current (2010+) peer reviewed literature addressing the interactive role of executive function and motivation in student engagement and, as corollaries, well-being and achievement, within a primary school context. Disengaged students face increased risk of experiencing physical and mental health problems later in life. Increasing both motivation and executive function can promote student engagement; however, the underlying mechanisms controlling these functions are unclear.

Significance and Aims: Without intervention, patterns of engagement remain relatively stable. Therefore, promoting engagement during primary school is imperative. To do so, we must understand the interaction of the mechanisms underlying engagement such as motivation and executive function. This research aims to provide direction to future research addressing engagement by providing a comprehensive and systematic review of the current evidence base.

Design: Four databases - CINHAL, PsycINFO, MEDLINE and ERIC – were used to search for articles addressing the intersection of four areas: 1) executive function; 2) intrinsic motivation; 3) student engagement, achievement and well-being; 4) primary school students (6-12 years). Screening involved: 1) reviewing citations for relevance to search criteria; 2) obtaining abstracts where relevant; 3) where appropriate, full manuscript review against PICOS inclusion criteria.

Findings: Our search identified 286 documents indicating some relevance to search subset areas: 279 articles through search execution and 7 documents already known to the first author. After screening, 57 articles were retained for full manuscript, 30 articles were excluded for not satisfying inclusion criteria; 27 articles were retained for evaluation and categorized as exact match (n=2) or partially matched (n=25). Evaluation resulted in two theoretical models of engagement being hypothesized however, more research is needed to determine the most effective measures and test hypothesized relationships.

Implications: Well-developed executive function skills and autonomous, supportive environments (i.e., low stress) will likely increase engagement.