It is a commonly-held belief that “student engagement” in the classroom is crucial to learning, and there may now be a good way to measure it.

Researchers have developed a scale to quantify student engagement, which they say could help educators identify barriers to student participation and increase levels of student involvement and learning.

The scale improves understanding of classroom engagement and can be readily used in from about grade four right up to senior level classrooms.

The survey is relatively short and inexpensive to administer, researcher Ze Wang said.

“Using the scale, we can compare different groups of students to see which have higher and lower levels of engagement,” Wang said.

“For example, we found that middle school students had less effective engagement or positive emotions - such as interest, happiness and excitement - than elementary school students.

“This makes sense because elementary students tend to be more obedient to their teachers, so they may show higher levels of this type of engagement at that younger age.”

After development, the scale was tested on the same students from whom the original data used to create the scale was collected.

It came up with a new of interesting influencing factors on engagement.

It showed those who did not receive free or reduced-cost lunch had higher cognitive and behavioural engagement.

Also, girls had greater affective and behavioural engagement than boys.

Understanding how these groups differ in classroom engagement can help teachers and administrators adapt their strategies to fit the specific needs of students, Wang said.

More details are available in the full research report, published in the journal School Psychology Quarterly.