Student engagement in the academic setting has been an interest to educators and psychologist. If a student did not engagement properly such as being disruptive and uninterested in class they may miss learning opportunities and may even lead to disrupting other students in class as well as the teacher. On the other hand if a student is to be well behaved during class they are able to advance in their subjects because they know what to study and when they are engaged they are able to read or complete academic tasks independently. When students are disengaged to value what they learn at school, their level of motivation decreases towards their learning activity (Wigfield & Eccles, 2000). It is important that this paper presents new exploratory insight into methods for student engagement in academic learning during their years in tertiary education.
What is Student Engagement?
Although there are no agreed upon definition of student engagement, student engagement refers to a composite of specific classroom behaviors such as writing, participating in tasks, reading aloud, reading silently, talking about academics, and asking and answering questions (Greenwood et al., 1984). In a more general term student engagement focuses on the degree to which students are engaging in activities that higher education research has shown to be linked with better learning outcomes (Krause & Coates, 2008). Several studies such as Astin (1993), Pace (1995), Chickering & Gamson (1987) and Krause & Coates (2008) defined student engagement as the amount of effort students themselves assign to educationally purposeful activities that contribute directly to desired outcomes.
It has already been established that there is a positive correlation between student engagement and academic performance (Reyes, 2008; Salamonson, Andrew & Everett, 2009). Another study explored the relationship between student engagement and academic performance in a group of international students which they found there was a positive correlation when students are engaged in activities correlated to GPA, some of these include library and computer use, reading unassigned materials, hours on academic work and use of scientific method and experimentation (Parikh, 2008).
From these definitions it can be seen that student engagement involves the students' experience of being engaged as well as any task activities that could be the trigger to this experience such as an assessment task.
What practical steps has been taken to promote student engagement?
In the academic setting, some institutions have identified the importance of student engagement and has responded by providing students with evidence-based learning program which consisted of engagement components such as (Comer, 1996):
(a) Make engagement information for individual students readily available to teachers.
(b) Support use of the information to change instruction to increase engagement.
(c) Develop school "engagement" benchmarks.
(d) Help teachers identify and use effective strategies to promote student engagement (i.e. promoters).
Some of the other components of the comprehensive program were the Comer process for involving parents in school governance and full inclusion of students with disabilities (Comer, 1996).
Other studies found that institutions provided activities and conditions for student engagement included summer workshops, materials describing engagement theory, concepts & practices, in-class observers, classroom consultation & feedback and web-based and print newsletters for teachers (Dorsey & Schulte, 1997; Greenwood, Conroy, & Reddy, 1996). These activities were designed to advance existing knowledge about using student engagement information.
So far most student engagement interventions are mostly activities focused on providing engaging activities or creating engaging conditions for students (Comer, 1996; Greenwood et al., 1996; Dorsey & Schulte, 1997). It is important to note the relationship between students and their institutions where institutions are responsible for creating the desired learning environments and create opportunities while it is ultimately up to the student whether they want to engage or not and how efficient they can use their available resources (Krause & Coates, 2008). To our knowledge, no published data is available to date that explores methods to improve one's student engagement through self-regulation of student engagement based on the definition provided by Krause & Coates (2008) that student engagement involves assigning quality effort to activities on their own. However upon research it has been noticed that Psychological skills training has provided such support into improving athlete's performance through mental training that has similar components to what could be provided for in the academic setting (Weinberg & Gould, 2007).
What is Psychological Skills Training (PST)?
"Psychological skills training (PST) refers to the systematic and consistent practice of mental or psychological skills for the purpose of enhancing performance, increasing enjoyment, or achieving greater sport and physical activity self-satisfaction" (Weinberg & Gould, 2007, p. 250). Therefore, PST should be systematic, goal-oriented, planned, controlled and evaluated (Seiler & Stock, 1994). Imagery, goal-setting, self-talk and physical relaxation techniques are named as the four basic mental techniques predominantly used in sport psychology interventions, supplemented with multimodal PST, which incorporates a combination of these basic techniques (Vealey, 2007).
Basic assumptions of PST?
The basic assumption of PST is to achieve the following outcomes depending on where you want to implement PST in a specific are:
Imagery (mental preparation)
Increasing motivation and commitment (goal setting)
Attention or concentration skills (self-talk, mental plans)
Coping with injury
There are three phases to PST:
1)Educational Phase: This phase consists of the psychological skills being learned and practiced. It takes time to develop and refine these skills over time.
2) Acquisition Phase: This phase is used to focus on strategies and techniques for learning the different psychological skills. This aspect of the training program needs to be tailored to meet the individuals needs.
3) Practice Phase: This phase consists of the transferring of psychological skill from practice and simulated situations to actual competitions. The focus should be on making the psychological skills automatic.
Psychological skills can be learned, but they must be practiced over time and integrated into a person's daily training regime. However Self-Regulation is the ultimate goal of PST
How did researchers identify which psychological skills might affect performance? Try stating how researchers interviewed coaches and athletes, but also try to refer to 1) behavioural, 2) cognition, 3) emotional and 4) motivation (refer to PST studies that suggested how PST affected these areas in an athlete).
PST is based from two sources, studies conducted from elite athletes and secondly from 'experiences' from coaches and athletes. What was found in the formal study (Krane & Williams, 2006) on elite athletes was more successful players differ from less successful ones in how developed their psychological skills are. Successful athletes were categorized by higher confidence, greater self-regulation of arousal, better concentration and focus, in control but not forcing it attitude, positive thoughts and imagery and more determination and commitment. It was concluded that successful athletes achieved peak performance by using the mental skills of goal setting, imagery, arousal control and management, thought control, competitive plans, coping strategies and mental preparation routines.
The other source came from coaches and athletes experience where Olympian athletes were interviewed about how they had developed plans for competition, performance evaluation and dealing with disruptions. They learned to channel performance anxiety and arousal positively. They also visualized successful outcomes and use simulations to put them in a competitive environment. On the other hand coaches also used psychological skills to help them perform their jobs more effectively. Imagery and self-talk are the most common mental skills taught from coaches both in training and competition. Self-talk were said to control emotions, to help plan sessions, pre and post competition talks, back up their judgment or give themselves confidence (reinforcement) and to get them in an appropriate frame of mind (instructions).
Any experimental evidence to suggest PST can enhance performance in general?
there are several studies that has shown to be able to transfer psychological techniques to numerous areas. Weinberg and Gould (2010) suggested that professionals such as Michael phelps and Lance Armstrong, which are elite athletes that has acquired psychological skills (mental skills) has been giving motivational talks to business corporation's employees. They used acronyms such as TEAM (togetherness, esteem, attitude and mental toughness) to promote their own philosophy. It was assumed that these athletic qualities can be transferred to a business setting.
Another assumption was made by Danish, Nellen and Owens (1996) that athletic mental skills are really life skills, so they developed a program called Sports United to Promote Education and Recreation (SUPER). It was a sports-based life skills intervention designed to teach sport and life skills to adolescents. Skills from sport such as goal setting, communication, handling success and failure, performing under pressure, working with a team, reacting to feedback, meeting deadlines and challenges, could be transferred to other aspects of life.
Andersen (2000) suggested that besides business, psychological skills can be applied to a variety of outside areas with concerns with things like coping with injures, transition out of sport and personal issues.
Examples of PST techniques used for performance enhancement outside of sport:
A physical educator might use relaxation training to teach a hyperactive child to learn to calm down.
Any experimental evidence to suggest PST can enhance performance in academic performance? No!
Any experimental evidence to suggest PST can enhance performance in student engagement performance? No!
Aim & Hypothesis? The aim of the current student is to explore whether there is a relation between the psychological skills of university students, student engagement and academic performance. It is hypothesized that
There is a positive correlation between psychological skills and student engagement.
There is a positive correlation between psychological skills and academic performance.
There is a positive correlation between student engagement and academic performance.