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Student engagement and wellbeing over time at a higher education institution


  • Chris A Boulton
  • Emily Hughes
  • Carmel Kent
  • Joanne R Smith
  • Hywel T P Williams


Student engagement is an important factor for learning outcomes in higher education. Engagement with learning at campus-based higher education institutions is difficult to quantify due to the variety of forms that engagement might take (e.g. lecture attendance, self-study, usage of online/digital systems). Meanwhile, there are increasing concerns about student wellbeing within higher education, but the relationship between engagement and wellbeing is not well understood. Here we analyse results from a longitudinal survey of undergraduate students at a campus-based university in the UK, aiming to understand how engagement and wellbeing vary dynamically during an academic term. The survey included multiple dimensions of student engagement and wellbeing, with a deliberate focus on self-report measures to capture students’ subjective experience. The results show a wide range of engagement with different systems and study activities, giving a broad view of student learning behaviour over time. Engagement and wellbeing vary during the term, with clear behavioural changes caused by assessments. Results indicate a positive interaction between engagement and happiness, with an unexpected negative relationship between engagement and academic outcomes. This study provides important insights into subjective aspects of the student experience and provides a contrast to the increasing focus on analysing educational processes using digital records.

Suggested Citation

  • Chris A Boulton & Emily Hughes & Carmel Kent & Joanne R Smith & Hywel T P Williams, 2019. "Student engagement and wellbeing over time at a higher education institution," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 14(11), pages 1-20, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:plo:pone00:0225770
    DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0225770

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. George D. Kuh & Ty M. Cruce & Rick Shoup & Jillian Kinzie & Robert M. Gonyea, 2008. "Unmasking the Effects of Student Engagement on First-Year College Grades and Persistence," The Journal of Higher Education, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 79(5), pages 540-563, September.
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    1. Surahman & Moh Fauzil Adhim, 2021. "The Relationship between Positive Emotion, Self-Efficacy, and Student Engagement during the Covid-19 Pandemic," International Journal of Research and Innovation in Social Science, International Journal of Research and Innovation in Social Science (IJRISS), vol. 5(1), pages 231-235, January.

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