Pathways to engagement: a longitudinal study of the first-year student experience in the educational interface

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Springer Nature Switzerland AG
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Student engagement is critical to success in the first year of university, yet evidence about how and why various factors influence engagement remains relatively rare. This study addresses this gap combining an existing framework of student engagement (Kahu and Nelson, Higher Education Research and Development, 37(1), 58–71, 2018) with student narratives to provide a detailed understanding of students’ engagement throughout their first year. Weekly semi-structured interviews with 19 first-year students at an Australian university illustrate how student and university factors interact to influence engagement, as conceptualised in the framework. The findings provide empirical support for the framework of student engagement, offering a more nuanced understanding of the student experience within the framework’s educational interface. The importance of self-efficacy, belonging, emotions and wellbeing as interwoven pathways to student engagement is demonstrated and the contextual and dynamic nature of engagement highlighted. Further work is necessary to understand how this knowledge can best facilitate student engagement and perhaps reduce cycles of disengagement.
Student engagement, First-year experience, Higher education, Critical realism
HIGHER EDUCATION, 2020, 79 (4), pp. 657 - 673