Student engagement and wellbeing over time at a higher education institution

Boulton, Chris A.; Hughes, Emily; Kent, Carmel; Smith, Joanne R. and Williams, Hywel T. P. (2019). Student engagement and wellbeing over time at a higher education institution. PLoS ONE, 14(11), article no. e0225770.



Student engagement is an important factor for learning outcomes in higher education. Engagement with learning at campus-based higher education institutions is difficult to quantify due to the variety of forms that engagement might take (e.g. lecture attendance, self-study, usage of online/digital systems). Meanwhile, there are increasing concerns about student wellbeing within higher education, but the relationship between engagement and wellbeing is not well understood. Here we analyse results from a longitudinal survey of undergraduate students at a campus-based university in the UK, aiming to understand how engagement and wellbeing vary dynamically during an academic term. The survey included multiple dimensions of student engagement and wellbeing, with a deliberate focus on self-report measures to capture students' subjective experience. The results show a wide range of engagement with different systems and study activities, giving a broad view of student learning behaviour over time. Engagement and wellbeing vary during the term, with clear behavioural changes caused by assessments. Results indicate a positive interaction between engagement and happiness, with an unexpected negative relationship between engagement and academic outcomes. This study provides important insights into subjective aspects of the student experience and provides a contrast to the increasing focus on analysing educational processes using digital records.

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