Undergraduate student course engagement and the influence of student, contextual, and teacher variables
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between undergraduate student course engagement and independent variables including teacher verbal and nonverbal immediacy behaviors, college course status, class time, class size, and student class rank. The target population was undergraduate students enrolled in one of three courses within the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources at the University of Missouri. Total study participants included 300 (N) students from a convenience sample, with an overall response rate of 84 percent. Students completed a paper questionnaire which included three instruments to measure student course engagement, teacher verbal immediacy, and teacher nonverbal immediacy. From the findings of this study, it was concluded that class size and teacher verbal immediacy were the two primary variables which significantly predicted student course engagement. In this study, class time, course status, and student rank had little influence on the outcome of student engagement in the classroom. Classes with less than 30 students significantly influenced overall engagement and student participation engagement. These findings support previous research with class size and engagement (Weaver & Qi, 2005). Additionally, the unique influence demonstrated by immediacy behaviors supported the researcher's assertions coupled with the findings of previous research on teacher behaviors and student engagement (Frymier & Houser, 2000; van Uden, Ritzen, & Pieters, 2014; Zepke & Leach, 2010). According to the findings, college teachers should be aware of the role their immediacy behaviors play in student engagement within their classrooms. Teachers who demonstrate energy and concern for student learning through being inclusive, encouraging, and ultimately realistic with communicating expectations can positively influence student engagement in the classroom. Where feasible, deconstructing large courses into smaller working groups could facilitate the opportunity for teachers to approach students more directly and intimately. Using grouping techniques in large classes can facilitate a smaller classroom environment and additionally increase student participation and interaction with their classmates, thereby enhancing learning. Future research should explore the use of observations to assess student behaviors in comparison to their perceived engagement in the classroom. Additionally, quantifying the frequency of teacher immediacy behaviors alongside student perceptions of those behaviors could provide context for the most influential teacher behaviors. Further, designing qualitative studies around the factors of engagement could provide context to the cognitive processes behind student behaviors in the classroom to enhance quantitative assessments of engagement.
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