Keywords: Active learning, involvement, dedication, investment, time-on-task, effort

Introduction to Engagement

Student engagement has long been a focus for many universities, normally with the assumption that students who are engaged are more productive in different learning environments.  Early theory on student engagement was developed by Astin (1984), in which he sought to solidify the definition of the construct of engagement for higher education professionals.  Many different theoretical approaches to engagement are described in his review, all of which tend to focus on the product of engagement rather than the process.  However, Astin posits his theory of student involvement, which attempts to measure the “how” of involvement. Instead of measuring student outcomes related to engagement, why not measure how the students become engaged in the first place?  Engagement often involves meaningfully dedicating time and resources to learning opportunities.  More recent research on student engagement has aimed to encapsulate not only classroom engagement, but also engagement with the university itself, with faculty/staff, and within service opportunities.

When Would You Measure Engagement?

Student affairs professionals may want to measure engagement if their goal is to gauge:

  • Both quantitative (e.g. number of office hours attended) and qualitative (e.g. is the student comprehending what was discussed during office hours) facets of involvement
  • Depth of interactions with faculty, programs, and resources throughout a student’s education
  • Whether students are maintaining an active role in their education



Those wanting to measure engagement may find it helpful to start their research by reviewing similar evidence-based literature:

Student Involvement: A Developmental Theory of Higher Education (Astin, 1984)

  • The author produces the arguments for previous definitions and measurements of engagement while simultaneously producing his own theory of student involvement.


What Student Affairs Professionals Need to Know About Student Engagement (Kuh, 2009)

  • Kuh provides a detailed description of the literature on student engagement, with a focus on what student affairs professionals can do to better assess their university’s engagement. The author further provides a critique of frequently used instruments for measuring engagement. 


Measuring cognitive and psychological engagement: Validation of the Student Engagement Instrument (Appleton, Christenson, Kim, & Reschly, 2016)

  • The researchers provide a model for assessing engagement that entails educational, social, and familial contexts linked to academic, social, and emotional outcomes. This study also provides analysis of the validity for the measurements used.


Frequently Used Instruments/Measures

The following instruments/measures have been used to assess engagement:

  • The National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE)
  • Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE)
  • College Student Experiences Questionnaire (CSEQ)
  • Student Engagement Instrument (SEI) (Appleton, Christenson, Kim, & Reschly, 2016).


Don’t Think This Construct Matches Your Assessment Goals? Check Out These Related Constructs: Belongingness, Motivation

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