Academic journal article Contemporary Nurse : a Journal for the Australian Nursing Profession

Academic Engagement and Disengagement as Predictors of Performance in Pathophysiology among Nursing Students

Academic journal article Contemporary Nurse : a Journal for the Australian Nursing Profession

Academic Engagement and Disengagement as Predictors of Performance in Pathophysiology among Nursing Students

Article excerpt


Academic engagement, also known as student engagement, academic learning time or academic involvement, is increasingly being recognised as an important determinant of quality in higher education (Australian Council for Educational Research, 2008). This active student involvement and commitment to university life has been shown to influence student learning and personal development (Astin, 1999; Pascarella & Terenzini, 1991), as well as student retention and persistence (Tinto, 1998).

Although the concept of student engagement or the flip-side, disengagement, is not new, the time and effort spent by students participating in learning activity in higher education has only come to the fore in the last decade. Since then, concerns about student disengagement, particularly first year undergraduate students in higher education, have been reported in several studies focussing on student engagement, in both international and Australian universities (Astin, 1999; Australian Council for Educational Research, 2008; Greenwood, Horton, & Utley, 2002; Horstmanshof & Zimitat, 2007; Kuh, 2003; McInnis, 2001; Wilms, 2003).

The time students spend in learning-related activities has been identified as a crucial element of academic engagement. This includes time spent both inside and outside the classroom (Carini, Kuh, & Klein, 2006; Greenwood et al., 2002; Pintrich & de Groot, 1990; Singh, Granville, & Dika, 2002), and encompasses time spent in private study and doing homework, as well as engaging in 'on-campus' learning activities, such as attending lectures and tutorials.

Time spent on homework completion

Homework, which consists of learning tasks assigned to students by teachers for completion outside classroom time, is often aimed at developing skills and attributes for learning autonomy and time management among learners (Cooper, 1989; Cooper & Valentine, 2001; Warton, 2001). Although most studies have demonstrated a positive relationship between homework completion and time spent on homework activity with academic performance (Bowen & Bowen, 1998; Cooper, Valentine, Nye, & Lindsay, 1999; Hall & Pascarella, 2000; Rayburn & Rayburn, 1999; Tymms & Fitz-Gibbon, 1992), there are studies that failed to substantiate the positive homeworkachievement relationship (Cooper, Lindsay, Nye, & Greathouse, 1998; Trautwein, Koller, Schmitz, & Baumert, 2002). Surprisingly, the examination of homework as a strategy to enhance learning or to promote academic performance has received little attention in nursing education. To our knowledge, no published data is available to date exploring the homework-achievement relationship of nursing students.

Lecture attendance

While lecture attendance is influenced by student motivation (Durden & Ellis, 1995), the value students place on this mode of learning activity (Mattick, Crocker, & Bligh, 2007), and personal learning preferences and learning needs (Billings-Gagliardi & Mazor, 2007; Moore, Armstrong, & Pearson, 2008), is also a strong indicator of academic engagement. Results from a number of empirical studies demonstrate a significant and positive association between lecture attendance and academic performance (Devadoss & Foltz, 1996; Durden & Ellis, 1995; Gatherer & Manning, 1998; Shimoff & Catania, 2001; Thatcher, Fridjhon, & Cockcroft, 2007), although this has not been a unanimous finding (van Walbeek, 2004).

Academic disengagement: Paid employment during semester

In contrast to academic engagement, students' participation in part-time employment during semester has been attributed as a key factor in student disengagement (McInnis, 2001). Becoming less involved with university and studying less has been highlighted in the literature. More students are juggling a number of competing demands, striving to balance study with paid work, family responsibilities, and leisure activities (Astin, 1999; Broadbridge & Swanson, 2005; Curtis & Williams, 2002; Lee, Mawdsley, & Rangeley, 1999). …

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