Using student engagement to improve school attendance

Date of Completion

January 2004


Education, Elementary|Education, Educational Psychology




This study investigated whether participation in school activities outside of the classroom improved attendance. In addition, whether or not changes in a student's engagement in the classroom as observed by the classroom teacher was also explored. Engagement was defined as behaviors related to effort, initiative, and participation observed in a classroom. Attendance, or absenteeism, is a risk factor in identifying students who eventually drop out of school. By intervening at a young age, the goal is to circumvent a gradual disengagement from school that may eventually result in a student not achieving to potential, or leaving school early. Absenteeism is one risk factor that a school can try to manipulate, as opposed to static factors that are not amenable to intervention. The present study utilized a multiple baseline design across students. Four students, who were identified at-risk due to their attendance history, participated in the study. In collaboration with the school counselor and staff members, four students completed a daily job outside of the classroom under the supervision of a teacher. The students received positive feedback from the supervising teacher upon completing the job. The goal was to foster feelings of belongingness through the student's active participation in completing the job. The feelings of belongingness, in turn, would reinforce participation in the school—beginning with attendance. The students completed the job over an eight-week period. During the intervention phase, an increase in attendance of 23%, 20%, 14%, and 16% was observed for Students l, 2, 3, and 4. One student, Student 5, was dropped from the study due to outside influences intervening with attendance. Three of the four students maintained the improved attendance rate during the follow-up phase. The results of the study added to a small body of research investigating effective methods to increase a student's attendance in school. In particular, the present study expanded on the present body of research by emphasizing the shift from an external reward system to a program that highlighted a student's engagement in school supporting a paradigm shift from the problem residing within a child to a perspective that recognizes the child as part of a larger social system. ^