A new study of Russian elementary school students finds that emotional engagement may be the key to academic success.
It is well-established that student engagement affects children’s performance and future success, researchers noted. In fact, student engagement is used as a primary predictor of educational dropout or successful school completion in Europe and North America.
However, the concept of school engagement is broader than the concept of learning motivation: It includes the assessment of a child’s general well-being at school, their interest and preparedness to participate in learning activities.
Engagement can be measured in three parts: behavioral, emotional, and cognitive. The behavioral component relates to the child’s activity, participation in school events, and readiness to follow the school rules. The emotional component assesses the feeling of comfort, the sense of belonging and interest in the school. The cognitive component assesses the child’s willingness to acquire knowledge and their ability for self-regulation.
For the study, psychology researchers from Higher School of Economics (HSE) University tested the reliability of a student engagement scale on 537 Russian primary school students.
Children marked on a piece of paper how they related to different phrases. For example, the phrase “I feel bored at school” assesses emotional involvement; “I watch learning-related TV shows” assesses the cognitive component, and “I’m attentive in class” the behavioral one.
According to the results, the emotional component is the most important component for assessing the overall engagement of primary school pupils. This is consistent with past findings: A child’s interest and comfort at school is particularly important for engaging in learning activities.
“If we look at school as a place where we constantly ‘rack our brain,’ continually solve problems and think, it may seem that cognitive involvement would be the factor that is most important for a student’s performance and readiness to make the effort. But this is not true. The emotional component makes a bigger contribution,” said Marie Arsalidou, Ph.D., one of the study authors.
“The kids need to feel happy and comfortable at school. And this makes sense: when you are in a place where you are happy, you are ready to work more.”
Researchers did not observe any differences in engagement between boys and girls and children of different ages. Previously, some international papers found that school engagement usually drops as the child gets older.
The findings are published in the journal PLOS ONE.