Not just robo-students: why full engagement matters and how schools can promote it

J Youth Adolesc. 2013 Sep;42(9):1426-42. doi: 10.1007/s10964-013-9948-y. Epub 2013 Apr 17.


Research has long linked academic engagement to positive social, psychological, and physical developmental outcomes; however, qualitative studies in high-performing schools find that some students who work hard in school may be compromising their mental and physical health in the pursuit of top grades. Such research calls for closer and more contextualized examinations of the concept of engagement. This study examines academic engagement in a sample of 6,294 students (54 % female; 44 % White, 34 % Asian, and 22 % other racial or ethnic background) attending 15 high-achieving schools. Findings show that two-thirds of students at these schools are not regularly "fully engaged" in their academic schoolwork; that is, they do not regularly report high levels of affective, behavioral and cognitive engagement. Although most students report working hard, few enjoy their schoolwork and find it valuable. This lack of full engagement, particularly the absence of affective and cognitive engagement, is associated with more frequent school stress, higher rates of cheating, and greater internalizing, externalizing, and physical symptoms of stress. The study also finds that full engagement is strongly related to positive teacher-student relationships. Implications for practice and future research are discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Achievement*
  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • Age Factors
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Cognition
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Curriculum
  • Deception
  • Decision Making
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health
  • Models, Educational
  • Models, Psychological
  • Psychology, Adolescent*
  • Schools
  • Self Report
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Support
  • Stress, Psychological
  • Students / psychology*
  • Work / psychology