The Role of Academic Engagement

Introduction

The attachment that students have to their school work which is also known as academic engagement has been identified by many researchers to be of significant importance especially if it is related to parental involvement in academic education. School attachment refers to the extent to which students feel they are a part of the school learning community. Academic engagement or attachment refers to the importance children place on getting a quality education and how they view academic outcomes to be of benefit to their personal lives. Parental influence in the education of children refers to the impact of parents on the academic performance and overall achievement of their children (Kean, 2005).

Parental influence in the motivation of students to participate in the learning process has played a significant part in their achievement of academic excellence. Most educationists have increased research work into the field as they increase their research activities to try and understand the contextual influences that occur during the learning process. Educational researchers such as Dekovic, Holbein, Spera, and Luckner have focused their studies on the effects of parental involvement in the academic learning of children by focusing on the performance of children in their home and schoolwork. Other researchers (Corwyn & Bradley, 2002) have developed family process models that can be used to explain the influence of parents on the academic achievement of their children (Johnson et al, 2001). The purpose of this research will be to determine parental influence and its effects on academic engagement

Academic Engagement

As identified in the introductory part of this essay, academic engagement refers to how important children view their educational experience and whether they will be able to derive any economic benefits once they complete their education. While there is a lack of substantive research work that has dealt with academic engagement, many researchers such as Newmann, Skinner, and Wellborn have examined the concept of engagement to be able to determine the types of behaviors and attitudes that accompany engagement when it is used in various contexts. Their research revealed that engagement was made up of two components which include the affective and behavioral components which could be used to explain the educational experience of a child (Johnson et al, 2001).

The affective component of academic engagement refers to how students feel embedded in their school communities and the school system. This component deals with identifying the various types of emotions and feelings that accompany academic engagement. The affective component determines how children feel about their respective educational schools while at the same time trying to determine their academic engagement through their perceptions. The behavioral component of academic engagement refers to the behavior demonstrated by students towards their general education. This component examines the various types of behavior exhibited by students as they take part in educational activities. The behaviors that are used to determine how engaged a student is in their education include working hard in-class exercises, completing homework on time, being punctual and attending class without fail, taking part in extracurricular activities such as sports or drama clubs, and taking part in class discussions (Crosnoe, 2001).

The limited studies that have been conducted on academic engagement have revealed that children who have engaged academically in their studies can perform better than those who are less engaged or not engaged at all in their studies. According to studies conducted by Connell et al in 1994 and Smerdon in 1999, the effects of academic engagement were most beneficial in subjects such as arithmetic and reading exercises where the standardized test scores of students showed that they performed better in such academic exercises. The factors that determined the academic engagement of students in their education included the background of the student and their embedment in the school’s educational system (Johnson et al, 2001).

The educational background of children according to Johnson et al (2001) was their ethnic background and race where the researchers identified children from African American and Hispanic backgrounds to have a lower academic engagement when compared to children from White American backgrounds. Johnson et al (2001) attributed this low engagement to education to be a result of the perceived lower returns children from these backgrounds thought academic education would accord them. African American and Hispanic children also had a lower academic engagement because of limited occupational opportunities that were accorded to their parents, siblings, and peers once they completed their educational experience.

To back their perspective, Johnson et al (2001) reviewed past research on engagement behavior that had been conducted on children from these minority groups where they discovered that Hispanic children together with African American students had a higher rate of absenteeism when compared to children from white backgrounds. A survey conducted by the National Education Longitudinal Study (NELS) revealed that African American children spent less time on their homework which demonstrated that they were less engaged in their education when compared to children from a white background (Johnson et al, 2001).

With regards to the embedment of students in their education, the educational experiences that students had while they were going through their learning experiences demonstrated how embedded they were in their education. Educational institutions are usually founded on curriculum demands that exist in the society where parents want to educate their children to ensure that they survive economically in society. Schools usually ensure that their students can interact with their peers, teachers, and school administrators so that they can gain the whole educational experience that comes with academic engagement. The people who make up a school play an important role in determining the academic engagement that a student will have towards their education in the school (Park, 2009).

Embedment with regards to academic engagement refers to the social and structural characteristics that exist within the school that will enable the student to be involved in learning activities. The social characteristics of schools refer to the race or ethnic origin of the students and teachers within the school where an ethnically diverse learning institution usually affects the student’s overall engagement in their academic work. For example, an African American student who attends a mostly white American school is more than likely to be disengaged in their education because of the mostly white school population. The structural factor refers to the composition of the school’s administration and the number of rules that exist within the school. Schools that have many rules increase the chances of the student becoming more academically disengaged with their studies when compared to schools that are run on fewer rules and guidelines (Richeson et al, 2003).

Parental Influence on Academic Engagement

The influence of parents in academic engagement has been identified as an important factor as it directly affects the overall academic achievement of a student in their academic engagements. A lot of research conducted on the topic under study has focused on the positive influence that parental involvement has on the academic achievement of children. Various academic works have highlighted the fact that parental influence which is based on the beliefs and behavior of the parent usually leads to positive academic outcomes in the child. Alexander and Bedinger conducted a study in 1994 to determine whether parental involvement in the engagement of children in their school work had any positive effects on their educational outcomes. The two authors noted that parents who had an income that ranged between moderate and high and had strong beliefs had a positive influence on the educational outcomes of their children when compared to parents that had a low income which did not correlate well with their children’s performance in school (Kean, 2005).

Alexander and Bedinger noted that the ability of parents to form accurate beliefs and expectations based on the academic engagement of their children was an essential component in structuring the home environment to suit the educational needs of the child. Halle et al (1997) supported Alexander and Bedinger’s findings where they noted that positive beliefs and expectations played a great role in predicting the achievement of children in their academic performance. Parenting techniques also influenced the performance of children in educational related activities where children brought up in warm and social home environments were able to achieve positive academic success when compared to children brought up in non-sociable environments.

The relationship that exists between a parent’s income, their educational beliefs, academic expectations, and the academic achievement of children was usually mediated by the home environment. Corwyn and Bradley (2002) noted that the mediation effect was much higher when the home environment was more conducive to the child’s learning when compared to the parent’s income. The two authors concluded that positive educational outcomes were usually linked to the behavior of parents towards their children’s education. They also noted that maternal education or the involvement of mothers in the education of children usually had a more consistent and direct effect on the cognitive and behavioral outcomes of the child during the learning process when compared to the involvement of the father.

Finn (1998) conducted a study on the importance of the home environment in the engagement of the child where he noted that emotionally supportive home environments provided much-needed assurance to children which was necessary for them to focus on their educational objectives. Home environments that were conducive to children’s learning needs were mostly characterized to have high-achieving parents that were emotionally supportive of their children’s education. Parents that viewed educational performance as an important factor in the success of their children’s education usually saw academic engagement to be accomplished through regular practice and work. Such parents usually became engaged in their children’s education by accepting any responsibility that came with assisting children in their learning strategies and processes (Finn, 1998).

While most research studies have revealed that parental engagement in the academic education of children has no equal importance in the outcome of the child’s performance most researchers have noted that parental engagement in the home environment plays a role in the overall performance of the child. According to various researchers, there are three types of parental engagement that are consistently related to the performance of children in school. The first type deals with actively organizing and managing the child’s time by organizing their daily timetables to ensure that they follow their study routines. Children that have regular study routines in the home environment can have higher performance when compared to children that have poorly organized timetables and homework schedules. According to studies conducted by Ho and Willms in 1996, the involvement of parents in managing the child’s time has proven to be an important activity as they influence children to utilize their study and homework time properly (Dempsey et al, 2001).

The influence of parents in time management activities increases the academic engagement of students on their school work as they can utilize the time allocated for their learning activities properly. The second type of parental engagement is the involvement of parents in homework exercises where parents can influence the performance of children in their educational activities by getting involved in homework. Parents can have a direct role in their children’s education by ensuring that their children’s assignments have been properly completed on time and also discussing the specific parts of the assignment to ensure that the child understands what is required of them. Some parents act as tutors for their children when they decide to participate in doing homework which improves the educational performance of children in their overall assessment tests (Dempsey et al, 2001).

Parents who become involved during homework time usually improve the academic engagement of their children as they become more motivated to complete their homework on time. Discussing the educational matters of children where parents hold frequent conversations with their children to be able to ascertain their current educational experiences is also an important aspect of ensuring the academic engagement of a child. Ho and Willms noted that parents who frequently conversed with their children on educational experiences were able to achieve overall academic success. By maintaining a supportive role, parents can be able to influence their children’s performance in a positive way which will ensure that the children can achieve academic success (Dempsey et al, 2001).

The third type of parental involvement is referred to as literacy and reading at home where parents promote a culture of reading and literacy in the home environment. Studies conducted by researchers like Wolf and Dave have shown that having newspapers, academic books, magazines and other sources of literature in the home environment helps to improve the performance of children in their education. Even when there are no newspapers or books in the house, reading to the child has proved to be an important activity in developing the literacy levels of the child. Anderson et al who conducted their research work in 1985 revealed that reading to children helps in improving their reading and listening proficiency which in the end leads to positive reading achievements (Finn, 1998). The involvement of parents in the school environment usually occurs in the form of parents attending school events, class performances, and athletic competitions

The behavior that accompanies parental involvement in children’s education has also been examined by researchers such as Grolnick and Price in their 2005 study where they were able to identify scaffolding patterns, parental motivation, and parental beliefs to play a big role in motivating their children to read. Generally, the studies that have been conducted on the involvement of parents in the education of their children have highlighted the important relationships that exist between the factors of parenting and the outcomes of educational related activities. The research work however becomes complex when it comes to determining how parents can be able to facilitate and strengthen the desired academic outcomes of their children. Parental factors that affect the academic engagement of children include the socioeconomic status of the parents, their ethnicity or race of origin, and their religion which might have an impact on the motivation of students to achieve academic excellence in their studies (Gonida & Urdan, 2007).

Conclusion

The purpose of this study has been to determine the effect of parental influence in the academic engagement of children where academic engagement has been defined as the type of behaviors exhibited by children towards their learning outcomes. The study has revealed that parental influence has a major impact on the academic engagement of children as it will determine whether the child will participate in learning activities within the school and at home. The involvement of parents in the learning activities of children has a positive effect on their academic engagement as parents who are actively involved in their children’s education can guide how best to approach educational problems during study times. This involvement has a direct impact on the academic engagement of the child as the interest demonstrated by the parents will be enough to motivate the child to participate in learning.

References

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