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REL Central Ask A REL Response

Literacy and Math

June 2018


How does student engagement relate to student learning?


Following an established REL Central research protocol, we conducted a search for research reports as well as descriptive study articles to help answer the question. The resources included ERIC and other federally funded databases and organizations, research institutions, academic databases, and general Internet search engines. (For details, please see the methods section at the end of this memo.)

References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. We have not evaluated the quality of the references provided in this response, and we offer them only for your information. Also, we compiled the references from the most commonly used resources of research, but they are not comprehensive and other relevant sources may exist.

Research References

Alvarez-Bell, R. M., Wirtz, D., & Bian, H. (2017). Identifying keys to success in innovating teaching: Student engagement and instructional practices as predictors of student learning in a course using a team-based learning approach. Teaching & Learning Inquiry, 5(2), 128–146. Retrieved from

From the abstract:

“When implementing innovative teaching techniques, instructors often seek to gauge the success of their methods. Proposing one approach to assessing classroom innovation, this study examines the ability of students’ ratings of engagement and instructional practices to predict their learning in a cooperative (team-based) framework. After identifying the factor structures underlying measures of student engagement and instructional practices, these factors were used as predictors of self-reported student learning in a general chemistry course delivered using a team-based learning approach. Exploratory factor analyses showed a fourfactor structure of engagement: teamwork involvement, investment in the learning process, feelings about team-based learning, level of academic challenge; and a three-factor structure of instructional practices: instructional guidance, fostering self-directed learning skills, and cognitive level. Multiple linear regression revealed that feelings about team-based learning and perceptions of instructional guidance had significant effects on learning, beyond other predictors, while controlling gender, GPA, class level, number of credit hours, whether students began college at their current institution, expected highest level of education, racial or ethnic identification, and parental level of education. These results yield insight into student perceptions about team-based learning, and how to measure learning in a team-based learning framework, with implications for how to evaluate innovative instructional methods.”

Gunuc, S. (2014). The relationships between student engagement and their academic achievement. International Journal on New Trends in Education and Their Implications, 5(4), 216–231. Retrieved from

From the abstract:

“The purpose of this study was to examine the relationships between student engagement and academic achievement. In another saying, this study aimed at determining the extent to which student engagement explains or predicts academic achievement. The study was carried out with the correlational research. The research sample was made up of 304 students. Student Engagement Scale and Demographic Variables Form were used for data collection tools. For the analysis of the data, descriptive statistics, correlation analysis, twostep cluster analysis, independent samples t-test and regression analysis were applied. The results obtained via the analyses conducted revealed that there were significant relationships between the students’ academic achievement and student engagement as well as between their academic achievement and especially the dimensions of cognitive engagement, behavioral engagement and sense of belonging. In addition, it was found out that cognitive, behavioral and emotional engagements – that is class engagement – predicted academic achievement and explained it with a rate of 10%.”

Wang, M.-T., & Eccles, J. S. (2011). Adolescent behavioral, emotional, and cognitive engagement trajectories in school and their differential relations to educational success. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 22(1), 31–39. Retrieved from
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From the abstract:

“The current study used a multidimensional approach to examine developmental trajectories of three dimension of school engagement (school participation, sense of school belonging, and self-regulated learning) from grades 7 to 11 and their relationships to changes in adolescents’ academic outcomes over time. The sample includes 1,148 African American and European American adolescents (52% females, 56% black, 34% white, and 10% others). As expected, the downward trajectories of change in school participation, sense of belonging to school, and self-regulated learning differed as did their predictive relationships with academic performance and educational aspiration, with school belonging declining most markedly, but being least predictive of changes in grade point average.”

Wonglorsaichon, B., Wongwanich, S., & Wiratchai, N. (2014). The influence of students school engagement on learning achievement: A structural equation modeling analysis. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 116, 1748–1755. Retrieved from

From the abstract:

“It has been realized at present that students’ school engagement is a variable that plays an important role in promoting students’ learning and achievement. The present study aimed to examine the level of students’ school engagement, to test the fit of models of students’ school engagement, and to analyze the influence of students’ school engagement on their learning achievement by using SEM analysis. The research findings can be summarized as follows: The students had a high level of school engagement (M = 3.651). The school engagement model had a good fit to the data. All hypothesized paths were supported, all p < .05, [and] there was a direct and significant effect of school engagement on achievement, standardized estimate = 0.360 (p < .05).”


Keywords and Strings

The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

  • Correlation between student engagement and achievement
  • Effect of student engagement on student learning

Databases and Resources

We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of over 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences. Additionally, we searched Google Scholar.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

  • Date of the Publication: References and resources published between 2008 and 2018 were included in the search and review.
  • Search Priorities of Reference Sources: Search priority was given to ERIC, followed by Google Scholar.
  • Methodology: The following methodological priorities/considerations were used in the review and selection of the references: (a) study types–randomized control trials, quasi experiments, surveys, descriptive analyses, literature reviews; and (b) target population and sample.

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the Central Region (Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory Central at Marzano Research. This memorandum was prepared by REL Central under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0005, administered by Marzano Research. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.