Pillars of Tertiary Student Engagement


The notion of the ‘student experience’ in higher education has a long and rich history.

Systematic measuring of the student experience has historically focused on pedagogical approaches, educational practices, and student evaluations of teaching practice (Grebennikov and Shah 2013).

Measuring attribute level evaluations of the student experience has offered institutions the ability to quantify and monitor the extent to which students’ baseline expectations are being met by the institution. Student satisfaction is a key benchmark metric of institutional performance and it continues to be prioritized in government policy.

Student engagement has been linked to an array of traditional success factors such as increased retention (Khademi Ashkzari, Piryaei, and Kamelifar 2018); high impact and lifelong learning (Artess, Mellors-Bourne, and Hooley 2017); curricular relevance (Trowler 2010); enhanced institutional reputation (Kuh et al. 2006); increased citizenship behaviours (Zepke, Leach, and Butler 2014); student perseverance (Khademi Ashkzari, Piryaei, and Kamelifar 2018); and work-readiness (Krause and Coates 2008). Engagement has also been linked to more subjective and holistic outcomes for students themselves including; social and personal growth and development (Zwart 2009); transformative learning (Kahu 2013); enhanced pride, inclusiveness and belonging (Wentzel 2012); student wellbeing (Field 2009)

Behavioural engagement

The behavioural dimension of engagement is defined as the observable academic performance and participatory actions and activities (Dessart, Veloutsou, and Morgan-Thomas 2015; Schaufeli et al. 2002).

Positive behavioural engagement is measured through observable academic performance including: student’s positive conduct; attendance; effort to stay on task; contribution; participation in class discussions; involvement in academic and co-curricular activities; time spent on work; and perseverance and resiliency when faced with challenging tasks (Kahu et al. 2015; Klem and Connell 2004).

Therefore, behaviourally engaged students exhibit proactive participatory behaviours through their involvement and participation in university life and extracurricular citizenship activities (Ashkzari, Piryaei, and Kamelifar 2018). The behavioural dimension is the most frequently measured dimension within national barometers of the student experience (Kuh 2009; Zepke 2014).

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