Preferred Name

Shane Kerr

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.


Date of Graduation

Summer 2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Department of Graduate Psychology


Keston H. Fulcher

Dena Pastor

Fletcher Linder


The assumption that engagement leads to student learning is fundamental in higher education. Engagement is often used by educational institutions as an indicator of student learning. However, research has found moderate to weak relationships between engagement and learning. This study explored the influence that methods used to measure learning and engagement may have on the relationships observed between the two. More specifically, this study considered differences between self-reported measures of learning and direct-measure change scores in their relationship to engagement. Additionally, this study tested the influence that specificity of engagement measures has on observed engagement-learning relationships. Quantitative reasoning was selected as the learning area in which these relationships were examined.

Three hundred and thirteen participants were randomly assigned to one of two testing conditions. One group completed a set of questions taken from the National Survey of Student Engagement. The other group completed the same set of engagement questions that were narrowed to reflect quantitative reasoning. All students completed the same measures of learning, namely a general self-reported measure of learning gains, a specific measure of self-reported learning gains, and a direct measure of learning gains calculated using the Quantitative Reasoning-9 test.

First, self-reported and direct measures of learning were compared to each other. Then, relationships between each measure of engagement and each measure of learning were calculated and compared. Results of the analyses indicated that student self-reports of learning (SRLG) were not representative of their direct measured learning gains (DMLG). Comparison of correlations revealed no difference in the relationship of general and specific engagement to any measure of learning. Additionally, analyses revealed differences between SRLG and DMLG in their relationship to engagement. These results emphasize the importance of practicing caution when using SRLG while studying the relationships between engagement and learning. Ideally, researchers should consider only using measures of SRLG which have been found to lead to comparable results as well validated DMLG. Further implications and suggestions for future research are also provided.



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