The engagement in classroom learning of years ten and eleven Western Australian students

Year: 2009

Author: Kennish, Penelope, Cavanagh, Robert

Type of paper: Refereed paper

The consideration of issues related to student engagement in classroom learning has taken on increasing importance in Western Australia since the passing of legislation to raise the school leaving age to 17 years, which came into effect in 2008. There are now more students retained at schools in Years Eleven and Twelve than previously. Engaging these students in learning is of the upmost importance for secondary schools.

This paper presents a hypothesised model of student engagement in classroom learning that is based on the principles of Flow Theory, i.e. a person achieves the state of flow when there is a match in high skills and high challenges. The hypothesised model proposes that student engagement is when there is a balance between student learning capabilities (skills) and the expectations of student learning (challenges). Each of these comprised sub-constructs, of which there were 11 in total. The research sought to determine which of the 11 sub-constructs that comprise the student engagement in classroom learning were the most difficult and which were easier to identify in Year Ten and Eleven students. It also sought to determine whether membership of different groups of students accounted for variance in the calibrated scores (these groups being gender; school year; subject; and whether favourite or least favourite subject).

The sample was 112 Year Ten and Eleven students from metropolitan and rural government schools in Western Australia. Each student was assigned a rating from zero to five by two researchers on each of the 11 sub-constructs. The Rasch Rating Scale Model was used for analysis of the quantitative data.

Firstly, the raters experienced differing levels of difficulty in identifying the respective sub-constructs in the students. That is, the 11 items in the instrument presented varying levels of difficulty of affirmation. Secondly, the engagement scores differed by gender (boys displaying lower levels of engagement) and whether favourite or least favourite subject was reported (favourite subjects displaying higher levels of engagement). The year of schooling of the student and the subject area (e.g. English, Mathematics, Science, and Society and Environment) did not account for variance in engagement scores. The implications of these findings are discussed.