05 SES 06, Engagement, Resilience and Mental Health
The aim of the present study is to understand Finnish lower secondary school student´s behavioral engagement and disengagement with regard to the structural and social surroundings of their school as well as their personal beliefs, norms and values related to school and education. The study is important for several reasons. Firstly, even though research has revealed the structural, cultural, and individual level risk factors related to student’s disengagement (Archambault, Janosz, Morizot, & Pagani, 2009; Virtanen, 2016), far less is known about the interplay of socioeconomic factors, cultural features, and individual beliefs and attitudes in school engagement and disengagement. Secondly, Finnish context makes this study as particularly interesting. Although Finnish education system has been praised for its continuous success in PISA studies and its capability to promote educational equality (Tikkanen, Bledowski, & Felczak, 2015), at the same time Finnish lower secondary school students’ views on issues related to the quality of school life and school well-being, are more negative than in the OECD-countries on average (Yoon & Järvinen, 2016). Moreover, in Finland, recent study findings concerning increasing segregation of schools in terms of student selection (Seppänen, 2006; Kosunen et al., 2016) and academic achievement (Niemi, 2016), makes understanding of the school-level factors in students’ school-engagement of special interest.
The interplay of factors of different levels in school engagement is worth a closer examination, since schooling amounts to far more than cognitive achievements and academic performance and outcomes. Shared attitudes, beliefs, norms, and values, as well social interaction among and between students and teachers form a breeding ground for the development of the school culture. Studying the school culture, that is opening the ‘black box’ of schooling, has been the aim of ethnographic studies for decades (e.g. Jackson, 1968; McLaren, 1993). In school effectiveness research, in turn, the structural features of the school, such as the socio-economic and ethnic composition of school, have been seen as important determinants impacting the formation of school culture, which in turn affects students´ overall engagement in school.
Engagement is a multi-dimensional concept consisting of cognitive, emotional, and behavioral aspects each influencing the others and each consisting of further sub-dimensions (e.g. Wang, Willett & Eccles, 2011). Behavioral engagement refers to the actions and practices that students direct toward school and learning. It consists of five dimensions: participation, following teacher’s instructions, withdrawal, disruptive behaviors, and absenteeism (Hospel, Galand, & Janosz, 2016). Disengagement, as opposite to engagement, refers to non-alignment to school norms, goals, and values often manifesting itself at an individual level as school misconduct, which refers to a behavioral dimension of disengagement, which is the main interest of this study.
The multilevel Input-Process-Output model (IPO; McGrath, 1984) was adapted as a conceptual framework for testing the relationship between school-level (both structural and cultural) and individual level factors in students behavioral engagement and disengagement in school.
Following the IPO model, an initial hypothesis of this study was that both the structure and the social milieu of the school (input level factors) are connected to students’ behavioral engagement, which is the output, and that this relationship is mediated through process level factors, that is school culture (beliefs systems, values, and norms held within a school), school’s social system (interpersonal relationships between groups and individuals at school), and student attitudes.
The data were collected within an international research project International Study of City Youth (ISCY; for more detail see Lamb, Jackson, & Rumberger, 2015). The participants of this study were 1.058 Finnish ninth graders living in the Turku subregion. Altogether 12 of the region’s 27 lower-secondary schools from eight municipalities participated in the study. These schools had a total of 2.489 ninth graders of which 1.058 (42.5 %) students took part in the study. The scales applied to measure students´ engagement included behavioral, cognitive, and emotional engagement in school, and sense of belonging at school developed within the ISCY-project. In addition, three latent school culture and social system factors were constructed including students’ behavior at school, teachers’ attitudes towards students, and school’s investment in students. Three observed variables, school size, school ethnicity (share of immigrant background students), and school SES (mean SES of student population), were included as measures for school structure and social milieu. The analyses were carried out using the Mplus 6.0 software with Maximum Likelihood estimator (Muthén & Muthén, 2006) and the IBM SPSS Statistics 23. The differences in the commonness of school misconduct between groups based on gender, immigrant background, school size, and family SES were analyzed with Chi-Square tests. The validity of the engagement scales was tested with confirmatory factor analysis (CFA). To test the hypothesized model of behavioral engagement, structural equation modelling (SEM) analysis was performed. The fit of the models was evaluated using a commonly applied combination of test statistics and fit indices (cf. Byrne, 2012).
School-deviant behavior, even in its petty forms, was rare in the Finnish data. Being late from school was the most frequent form of school misconduct. Nearly third of the respondents admitted that they had been late from school. Boys got into more trouble with teachers and peers than girls, and students with immigrant background were more often late from school or skipped a class without permission than native Finnish students. Students belonging to the lowest family SES group skipped classes and whole school days and got into trouble with their peers more often than the students belonging to the two higher SES groups. School misconduct was more frequent in smaller than larger schools. As expected, all input level factors related to school culture and social system were positively connected to students´ school engagement. Further on, the higher the engagement in school, the higher is their level of behavioral engagement. Against the hypothesis, school size was not connected to students’ school engagement. The social milieu and school ethnicity predicted only emotional engagement, suggesting the higher the SES the higher the emotional engagement, and, against the assumption, the higher share of immigrant background students indicated a higher level of emotional engagement in school. The implications of the study results for practice and future research will be discussed.
Archambault, I., Janosz, M., Morizot, J., & Pagani, L. (2009). Adolescent Behavioral, Affective, and Cognitive Engagement in School: Relationship to Dropout. Journal of School Health, 79 (9), 408–415. Byrne, B. M. (2012). Structural equation modeling with Mplus. Basic concepts, applications, and programming. New York, NY: Routledge. Hospel, V., Galand, B., & Janosz, M. (2016). Multidimensiolity of behavioural engagement: Empirical support and implications. International Journal of Educational Research, 77, 37-49. Jackson, P. (1968). Life in Classrooms. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston. Kosunen, S., Bernelius, V., Seppänen, P., & Porkka, M. (2016). School Choice, to Lower Secondary Schools and Mechanism of Segregation in Urban Finland. Urban Education. Published online. Lamb, S., Jackson, J., & Rumberger, R. (2015). ISCY Technical Paper: Measuring 21st Century Skills in ISCY. Technical Report. Victoria University, Centre for International Research on Educational Systems, Melbourne, Victoria. Retreived from http://vuir.vu.edu.au/31682/ McGrath, J. E. (1984). Groups: Interaction and Performance. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. McLaren, P. (1993). Schooling as a Ritual Performance. London: Routledge. Muthén, L. K., & Muthén, B. (2006). Mplus user’s guide (version 4). Los Angeles, CA: Muthén & Muthén. Niemi, P. (2016). Ohjaus ja oppilaiden urapohdinta. Turkulaisten peruskoulun päättöluokkalaisten ohjauskokemukset urapohdinnan selittäjinä [Counselling and students’ career thinking. Counselling experiences explaining career thinking of Turku Students finishing basic education]. Turku: University of Turku. Seppänen, P. (2006). Kouluvalintapolitiikka perusopetuksessa. Suomalaiskaupunkien koulumarkkinat kansainvälisessä valossa [School Choice Policy in Comprehensive Schooling. School markets of Finnish cities in the international perspective]. Turku: Finnish Educational Research Association. Tikkanen, J., Bledowski, P., & Felczak, J. (2015). “Education Systems as Transition Spaces”. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 28 (3), 297–310. Virtanen, T. E., Lerkkanen, M-L., Poikkeus, A-M., & Kuorelahti, M. (2016). Student behavioral engagement as a mediator between teacher, family, and peer support and school truancy. Learning and Individual Differences 36, 201–206. Wang, M-T., Willett, J. B. & Eccles, J. S. (2011). The assessment of school engagement: Examining dimensionality and measurement invariance by gender and race/ethnicity. Journal of School Psychology, 49, 465-480. Yoon, J., & Järvinen, T. (2016). Are model PISA pupils happy at school? Quality of school life of adolescents in Finland and Korea. Comparative Education. Published online 07 Sep 2016.
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