Measurement of student engagement in early elementary school
Wright, Anna Goodbread
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Research on student engagement, which emerged in response to the costly issue of high school dropout, emphasizes the developmental nature of and contextual influences associated with the decision to leave school prematurely (Finn, 1989; Rumberger, 2011; Reschly & Christenson, 2006). Although several demographic groups are at heightened risk for dropping out, student engagement research focuses on variables that differentiate risk and on variables that are alterable and amenable to intervention and prevention efforts (Christenson, 2008; Reschly & Christenson, 2012). This dissertation provides a comprehensive overview of dropout and student engagement research, and reviews relevant literature on the definitions, measurement, and developmental considerations of the engagement construct. In light of research emphasizing the importance of early school experiences on distal outcomes, the Student Engagement Instrument – Elementary Version, Second Edition (SEI-E2) is presented as a plausible measure of engagement for students in first and second grade (Alexander, Entwistle, & Horsey, 1997; Christenson & Thurlow, 2004). Currently, research is lacking on the nature and measurement of engagement with young children, and the SEI-E2 was created to address this need. The psychometric properties of the SEI-E2 are reviewed to evaluate continuity in engagement throughout elementary school. Results and findings of the current study provide initial evidence of continuity in the engagement construct throughout elementary school, and highlight developmental changes in the influence of factors on engagement for young students. Limitations of the current study, directions for future research, and implications for this work are also addressed.