Author: Cavanagh, Robert
Type of paper: Refereed paper
This report presents some of the outcomes of an ARC-funded project into secondary school student participation and engagement. Student engagement in classroom learning was conceptualised as a balance between two attributes. For students to be engaged, the tasks expected of them should be commensurate with their ability to complete these tasks. That is, a balance between their learning capabilities and the expectations of their learning. Of interest was the proportion of students with this balance between their capabilities and the expectations. The research sought to estimate this statistic using two types of data and two estimation techniques.
First, 195 Years 8 to 12 students were interviewed and rated by two researchers on six aspects of learning capabilities and five aspects of the expectations of their learning. Second, 1759 Years 8 to 12 students responded to 12 self-report rating scale items about their learning capabilities and 15 self-report items about their learning capabilities and expectations. Four independent Rasch Rating Scale model analyses were used to calibrate the sets of student scores and estimate the standard error in each score. Common-person test equating methods were then applied separately to the data from the two sources. One method was a graphical technique of plotting scores, errors and construction of control lines for a 95% confidence band. The number of students with scores outside of the confidence band was noted. The other method estimated the t-test values for individual students and plotted the distribution of t-value frequencies. The number of students with scores outside of the 95% confidence interval was noted.
The proportions of students with 'equivalent' learning capabilities and expectations of learning scores were similar for the two samples. For the students rated by the researchers, 22.6% were outside the 95% confidence interval. For the self-reporting students, 27.0% were outside the 95% confidence interval. Both results show that using the criteria of a 95% confidence interval, approximately three quatrters of students had a balance between their learning capabilities and the expectations of their learning.
The results support the theoretical basis for the capabilities-expectations model of engagement. Significantly, methods for estimating the proportion of students engaged in their classroom learning were presented and assessed. Instrumentation reliability within and between methods was evidenced. Use of the Rasch model for calibration ensured measures were obtained. The instrumentation should have application in learning environment and classroom effectiveness research.