Engagement for all learners? The influence of teachers’ conceptualisations of student engagement on their teaching practices

Year: 2019

Author: Pedler, Megan

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The literature delineates student engagement as a malleable construct, involving a student’s behaviours, emotions and cognitions, all of which are influenced by the learning context, and more specifically, by the teacher. Teachers’ skills and practices can actively engage students in learning, support them to be successful in the classroom and promote positive student outcomes. This is achieved by working towards high expectations for learning and behaviour, providing deeper understanding of content relevant to students’ lives and interests, and promoting students’ sense of belonging in relation to their school, their learning, and their peers. For this reason, investigating teachers’ understandings of student engagement, and how this links with teachers’ classroom practices to positively influence student engagement, forms the core focus of this research.

In terms of methodology, this research uses a pragmatic research paradigm and a mixed method approach to data collection. From this perspective, the ethically approved (ECN-17-238) study seeks to establish how secondary teachers conceptualise student engagement in relation to three key dimensions (behavioural, emotional and cognitive engagement), as derived from student engagement literature. Findings from quantitative and qualitative data from a pilot study, cognitive interviews, national questionnaire, in-class observations, and interviews with teachers will be presented. These findings demonstrate how teachers conceptualise the multi-dimensional construct of student engagement, the strategies they believe are most important in promoting student engagement in the classroom, and how these conceptualisations of student engagement impact on their pedagogy.

The findings from this research provide insights into secondary school teachers' understandings of behavioural, emotional and cognitive engagement in the classroom. They also provide insight into the strategies teachers believe to be important in supporting each dimension of student engagement for all learners in the classroom and how their understandings ultimately impact on their teaching practices. The study will inform future interventions to support both pre-service and in-service teachers with a better understanding of strategies that foster students’ engagement in the classroom both in Australia and around the world. Ultimately, effective teaching strategies that improve student engagement create better access for all students in a learning environment.