Faculty Publications


Measuring student engagement activity levels and persistence: A study of a four -year comprehensive university

Publication Date

January 2007


The present study investigated the impact of levels of student engagement on retention among first-year, full-time students at a south central Kentucky university, by examining the self-reported levels of engagement as described on the Spring 2005 National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE). In addition, the study measured the predictive value of the multidimensional patterns of student engagement relative to student retention from the first- to second-year, based on the NSSE participants' subsequent enrollment in the Fall 2005. The study also examined the relationship among students' demographic and personal achievement characteristics and levels of student engagement that influence persistence and dropout decisions. An analysis of both past and current literature concerning retention issues revealed that persistence in higher education is a longitudinal process involving more than students' cognitive ability to succeed academically. The present study employed a cross-sectional, correlation design in which a two-group, simultaneous, discriminant analyses were used to address the research questions. Data used for this study were gathered via cross-sectional design from first-year students who enrolled in the fall 2004 semester at Western Kentucky University. The survey was administered toward the end of the spring 2005 semester. Only those students who persisted from the fall 2004 semester to spring 2005 semester participated in the survey. Information sought concerned demographic characteristics, student engagement behaviors, and other variables thought to influence student persistence. Sample participants who persisted were identified though Fall 2005 enrollment records. Results from the present study indicated that academic achievement is a far greater predictor of persistence than student engagement. In addition, the data obtained from this study might also indicate that Spady (1970) and Tinto's (1975) stance that demographic and academic achievement characteristics are the foundation of the longitudinal process of persistence might be key to predicting persistence, particularly among first-year students. In short, while social integration and student engagement are important, academic achievement and preparedness are critical to both social integration and persistence. In other words, while student engagement may be an important factor in persistence in higher education, the basis for success in higher education is academic preparedness. Further investigations of the effects of remedial education on persistence are necessary to determine if this approach actually increases persistence.


Education | Social and Behavioral Sciences