There seems to be more and more talk and focus on the idea of “Student Engagement,” which causes me to ask, “What is meant by the construct of engagement and how do you measure it?”
In a recent review of current thinking about engagement and student success, the American National Research Council (2003) concluded that focusing on the more immediate indicators of engagement, such as attendance and dropout rates, is valuable but, in the end, what must be achieved is “the more ambitious goal of deep cognitive engagement that results in learning.”
To borrow from the works of Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, we are probably talking about a state of ‘Flow,’ which is defined by Wikepedia as “the mental state of operation in which a person in an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity.” Probably the best way to understand the concept of “flow” is to think about a time when you were so immersed and involved in an activity that you lost all sense of time. You probably felt a sense of deep satisfaction and were intrinsically motivated by the task at hand.
Measuring “deep cognitive engagement’ then is more than just observing students compliantly following teacher instructions. It should include attention to quantifying the extent to which students identify with and value schooling outcomes, have a sense of belonging at school, participate in academic and non-academic activities, strive to meet the formal requirements of schooling, and make a serious personal investment in learning.
Additionally, measuring student engagement should take into account the degree of enjoyment, interest, and motivation to do well as well as the extent to which students see these classes as relevant to their everyday life.