How Students Engage in Class
Being informed about the relationship between students and teachers
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Professor Jang Hyung-shim of the Department of Education recently published a paper titled “Why students become more engaged or more disengaged during the semester: A self-determination theory dual process model.” She was consequently nominated as Researcher of the Month at HYU. Professor Jang's achievement lies in understanding the motivational processes of student learning and how it is affected by social contexts. More specifically, the research focuses on the relationship between instructors’ motivation styles and students’ functioning abilities in the classroom. Jang, an experienced expert in the specific field of study, spoke about the cause-and-effect relationship between the two subjects.
Instructors, specifically school teachers, play a crucial role in student behavior and participation in academics. There is a common understanding, based on past studies, that if the instructor is more authoritative, teaching based on strict rules and procedures, student involvement in class decreases. In contrast, if the instructor provides more autonomous support in education, then students tend to be more engaged in class. The autonomous teaching method emphasizes freedom in a classroom, allowing creativity and critical thinking to flourish. Thus, in this specific study, Jang proposed a new perspective, a dual process model, in the existing self-determination theory.
Guiding Jang’s research as a theoretical base, self-determination theory explains how students learning through self-motivated or autonomous learning increases their engagement in class. “The special finding in this research is in the dual process model. We have found out that for an individual student and an instructor, there are two ways in which they are affected by each other,” explained Jang. “For example, students’ engagement in learning can be explained by their experience of week-to-week gains in their need satisfaction guided by the instructor.” In short, the need satisfaction concerning a single student is achieved through autonomous support of instructors. Need frustration or disengagement, on the other hand, is the result of an authoritative instructor. Thus, the dual process within an individual student is shown, totally influenced by social context, which is the relationship with the instructor.
Moreover, the findings confirm the existence of reciprocal causality in the classroom. “The reciprocal relation between authoritative teaching and student disengagement is quite strong, as controlling teachers lead to disengaged students and disengaged students lead to controlling teachers,” said Jang. “The reciprocal relation between autonomy-supportive teaching and student engagement is there, but is less strong.” This interesting relationship between students and teachers demonstrates the intertwined roles that influence each other either positively or negatively.
“The research was completed using a three-wave longitudinal research with 366 high school students in Seoul participating. A questionnaire was given to each them three times at different points throughout the semester,” said Jang. The questions included a statement of consent, measures to assess the need satisfaction and need frustration, as well as autonomy support and teacher control. After the second stage of data analysis, the results showed the current finding based on the information collected.
Jang believes that the results of this study has a lot to offer to both the students and teachers. “The teachers must improve styles of motivation based on two distinct skills. One of them is to have more supportive autonomy and the other is to be less controlling. Also, students must realize that classroom disengagement affects teachers’ motivating style toward them, and this is a rather strong effect,” said Jang. “So if your teacher is oppressive toward you, one reason may be because you are manifesting strong disengagement.”
Thanks to the effort of researchers like Jang, necessary improvements continue to proceed in the Korean education system. In that sense, Hanyang University also stands as a leading global institution that is open to change and reform.
Park Min-young firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos by Choi Min-ju
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