Interplay of internal and external regulation and their joint impact on student engagement in class
Autorin: Veronique Charlotte Navarro Báez
Gutachtende: Prof. Dr. Markus Neuenschwander, Prof. Dr. Elena Makarova, Prof. Dr. Franziska Vogt
Student engagement in class is the time during class when students are actively and productively learning in regard to specific scholastic content. Educational scientists agree that student engagement is a substantial predictor of academic performance. Nevertheless, factors influencing student engagement in elementary school have not been investigated systematically. Accordingly, this dissertation examines factors which might affect elementary students’ engagement during class. Based on a synthesis of theoretical models and a systematic literature review of studies that empirically examine observable student engagement in elementary schools, a working model is presented. The model proposes that student engagement is affected by personal, social, and instructional factors relating to internal and external regulatory processes. It is assumed that in a classroom context, internal and external regulatory processes might interact with each other and jointly contribute to student engagement during class.
The sample used consists of 34 fifth grade elementary school classes in Switzerland. The data used in this dissertation was collected using three instruments: First, a longer questionnaire about attributes of the students which are conceptualized as more stable. Second, a standardized observation of students’ on-task engagement employing a 15-second time-sampling approach. Third, a short student questionnaire after each observed lesson capturing the student’s self-perception during the lesson.
The data analysis strategy follows a quantitative approach, taking into account dependencies between students from the same classroom. Research question 1 investigated a triangulation of student engagement in class. The analysis revealed that a comparison referent effect, similar to the 'Big-Fish-Little-Pond'-Effect, can be observed regarding student engagement. Research question 2 examined the relationship between motivation, self-control, and student engagement. The results indicate that self-control as well as different types of internal and external motivation significantly impacted student engagement at both the individual and class levels. Research question 3 examined the relationship between social connectedness within a class and student engagement. The data suggests that students with slightly lower engagement levels than the class average were more likely to be chosen as best friends by their classmates.
Overall, the results of the dissertation support the significance of social factors related to classmates in influencing student engagement in class. Therefore, it is important to consider not only individual and instructional factors, but also social factors when promoting student engagement in the classroom.