In fact, schools that focus on student engagement are seeing bothgreat possibility and real success. Schools that utilize the HighSchool Survey of Student Engagement are listening to their students’beliefs, perceptions, and perspectives on their school experience;those schools that utilize their student engagement data effectivelyare making progress. This report highlights five such schools anddistricts; struggling with a variety of structural, instructional, andsocietal issues, these schools are focusing their efforts on charting apath to achievement that starts with engagement.
“I hope this survey allows you to do better research on how highschool life can be improved: academically, socially, mentally, and physically.”
— HSSSE 2009 Student Respondent
Vivian Gussin Paley, the early childhood teacher and prolificeducation researcher, once wrote, “When we are curious about achild’s words and our responses to those words, the child feelsrespected. The child
respected.” (1986, p. 127). Students want tofeel that their words and thoughts are important to adults within theschool community. While schools that participate in the High SchoolSurvey of Student Engagement (HSSSE) are generally eager to hearwhat their students have to say about various aspects of the studentexperience in school, schools often do not know what to do with thedata and how to incorporate the viewpoints of students into schoolplanning and improvement efforts.
The High School Survey of Student Engagement is designed to bothhelp schools ascertain students’ beliefs about their school experienceand provide assistance to schools in translating data into action.HSSSE is a research and professional development project directed bythe Center for Evaluation and Education Policy (CEEP) at IndianaUniversity in Bloomington. The project has three primary purposes:(1)
to help high schools explore, understand, and strengthen student engagement,
to work with high school teachers and administratorson utilizing survey data to improve practices,
to conduct research on student engagement.
HSSSE investigates deeply the attitudes, perceptions, and beliefs of students about their work, the school learning environment, and theirinteraction with the school community. The data from the survey helpschools explore the causes and conditions that lead to student successor failure, engagement or “dis-engagement,” persistence or droppingout. HSSSE data are important in guiding both immediate action onschool improvement initiatives and long-term planning of largerreforms, providing insight into ways of reaching every student,raising achievement, improving graduation rates, and strengtheningteaching and learning in schools.
History of HSSSE
Growing out of the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE),a survey project of the Center for Postsecondary Research at IndianaUniversity (directed by Dr. George Kuh) focused on postsecondarystudents, HSSSE has been available to schools since 2004. Originallydirected by Dr. Martha McCarthy, HSSSE has been based at theCenter for Evaluation and Education Policy (directed by Dr. JonathanPlucker) since the 2005-06 school year.
The central component of the project is the survey instrument, whichtakes about 30 minutes for students to complete. Survey questionsinvestigate the levels and dimensions of student engagement in the lifeand work of high schools, providing schools with rich and valuabledata on students’ beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. Since 2006, morethan 350,000 students in over 40 states have taken the survey.
Currently, there is a survey administration each fall and each spring.Schools choose to participate in HSSSE, and administer the survey totheir students. Each participating school receives a comprehensivedata report detailing and summarizing the responses of students inthat school to questions on the survey, as well as providingcomparisons to the whole pool of HSSSE respondents. Participatingschools also receive access to technical assistance from HSSSE staff in understanding and using the data.
Dimensions of Engagement
Studies of student engagement have often focused on the traditionally“measurable” (i.e., countable) aspects of student behavior and,consequently, report primarily on time-on-task, attendance/truancy,and suspension/discipline rates. The High School Survey of StudentEngagement conceives of student engagement as a deeper and broaderconstruct, one that allows us to capture a variety of ways in whichstudents may or may not be engaged in the life and work of a school.
Though researchers often attempt to identify specific studentbehaviors (time-on-task, attendance), student characteristics (self-efficacy), or school structures (small learning communities, presenceof technology) as discrete indicators or predictors of engagement,reviews of the research literature best support a definition of studentengagement that is complex and “multifaceted” (Fredricks,Blumenfeld, & Paris, 2004). The High School Survey of StudentEngagement utilizes three dimensions of engagement for analysis:
Cognitive/Intellectual/Academic Engagement, Social/Behavioral/ Participatory Engagement,
Emotional Engagement.Cognitive/Intellectual/Academic Engagement
captures students’effort, investment in work, and strategies for learning — the work students do and the ways students go about their work. Thisdimension, focusing primarily on engagement during instructionaltime and with instruction-related activities, can be described as
engagement of the mind.
Survey questions that are grouped withinthis dimension of engagement include questions about homework,preparation for class, classroom discussions and assignments, and thelevel of academic challenge that students report.
emphasizes students’actions and participation within the school outside of instructionaltime, including non-academic school-based activities, social andextracurricular activities, and interactions with other students — theways in which students interact within the school community beyondthe classroom. This dimension, with its focus on student actions,interactions, and participation within the school community, can bedescribed as
engagement in the life of the school.
Survey questionsthat are grouped within this dimension of engagement includequestions about extracurricular activities, students’ interactions withother students, and students’ connections to the community withinand around the school.
- 2 - High School Survey of Student Engagement