Student engagement as a general factor of classroom experience: Associations with student practices and educational outcomes in a university gateway course

David J. Shernof, Erik A. Ruzek, Alexander J. Sannella, Roberta Y. Schorr, Lina Sanchez-Wall, Denise M. Bressler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The purpose of this study was to evaluate a model for considering general and specific elements of student experience in a gateway course in undergraduate Financial Accounting in a large university on the East Coast, USA. Specifically, the study evaluated a bifactor analytic strategy including a general factor of student classroom experience, conceptualized as student engagement as rooted in flow theory, as well as factors representing specific dimensions of experience. The study further evaluated the association between these general and specific factors and both student classroom practices and educational outcomes. The sample of students (N = 407) in two cohorts of the undergraduate financial accounting course participated in the Experience Sampling Method (ESM) measuring students' classroom practices, perceptions, engagement, and perceived learning throughout the one-semester course. Course grade information was also collected. Results showed that a two-level bifactor model fit the data better than two traditional (i.e., non-bifactor) models and also avoided significant multicollinearity of the traditional models. In addition to student engagement (general factor), specific dimensions of classroom experience in the bifactor model at the within-student level included intrinsic motivation, academic intensity, salience, and classroom self-esteem. At the between-student level, specific aspects included work orientation, learning orientation, classroom self-esteem, and disengagement. Multilevel Structural Equation Modeling (MSEM) demonstrated that sitting in the front of the classroom (compared to the sitting in the back), taking notes, active listening, and working on problems during class had a positive effect on within-student variation in student engagement and attention. Engagement, in turn, predicted perceived learning. With respect to between-student effects, the tendency to sit in front seats had a significant effect on student engagement, which in turn had a significant effect on perceived learning and course grades. A significant indirect relationship of seating and active learning strategies on learning and course grade as mediated by student engagement was found. Support for the general aspect of student classroom experience was interpreted with flow theory and suggested the need for additional research. Findings also suggested that active learning strategies are associated with positive learning outcomes even in educational environments where possibilities for action are relatively constrained.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number994
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberJUN
StatePublished - Jun 15 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychology(all)


  • Bifactor
  • Classroom
  • ESM
  • Engagement
  • Learning
  • MSEM
  • Student
  • University


Dive into the research topics of 'Student engagement as a general factor of classroom experience: Associations with student practices and educational outcomes in a university gateway course'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this