The relationship between teacher caring and student engagement in academic high school classes
Lack of student engagement is a serious problem, particularly at the secondary level. Engagement is important because it affects students' psychological commitment to learning. Relatedness (a need to be connected to the social surround) is a prerequisite for engagement. The purpose of this study was to (1) assess the strength of the relationship between teacher caring and student engagement in academic high school classes, and (2) develop an instrument to examine student perceptions of teacher caring and engagement in high school.
Using a questionnaire, I studied 338 juniors and seniors in two public high schools. A pilot study was conducted to determine the reliability and validity of the instrument. The students completed a 44-item survey eliciting their perceptions of (1) teacher caring and (2) their own level of engagement in one academic class they had taken during the current school year.
Analysis of the responses indicated that teacher caring and student engagement were significantly correlated (r = .697) at the .01 level with teacher caring accounting for 47% of the variance in student engagement. The grand alpha (a reliability statistic) was .97 for items in the teacher caring section, and .93 for items in the student engagement section. Three factors for teacher caring and three factors for student engagement emerged from factor analysis.
Anova analysis indicated that perceptions of teacher caring and student engagement vary by academic department. Both were significant at 0.000, with F scores of 20.24 for teacher caring and 14.09 for student engagement. The R2 for teacher caring by subject was .196 (20%) while the R 2 for student engagement by subject was .145 (15%).
Arguments for caring are often based on a philosophical perspective. This study provides empirical data showing that perceived teacher caring plays a significant role in perceived student engagement. It points to teacher caring as a potentially important response for the problem of student disengagement in secondary school, discusses implications, makes recommendations, and suggests areas for future research.
0525: Educational psychology