Psychological engagement of university students

Carolyn Timms (Department of Psychology, Division of Tropical Health and Medicine, College of Healthcare Sciences, James Cook University, Cairns, Australia)
Tracey Fishman (Department of Psychology, Division of Tropical Health and Medicine, College of Healthcare Sciences, James Cook University, Cairns, Australia)
Alexander Godineau (Department of Psychology, Division of Tropical Health and Medicine, College of Healthcare Sciences, James Cook University, Cairns, Australia)
Jamie Granger (Department of Psychology, Division of Tropical Health and Medicine, College of Healthcare Sciences, James Cook University, Cairns, Australia)
Tariro Sibanda (Department of Psychology, Division of Tropical Health and Medicine, College of Healthcare Sciences, James Cook University, Cairns, Australia)

Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education

ISSN: 2050-7003

Publication date: 2 July 2018

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to investigate the relationship of undergraduate university students’ course experience (learning community (LC), clear goals and standards, student support, study-family affect (SF affect) and autonomy) to their well-being, as measured by psychological engagement (dedication, absorption and vigour) and burnout (exhaustion and disengagement/cynicism).

Design/methodology/approach

First-year psychology students (n=128) were surveyed using previously validated measures of their well-being and experiences at university.

Findings

Belonging to a LC (where students were encouraged to develop fluidity with the subject matter and share insights) was positively related to students’ psychological engagement. By contrast, the provision of ready access to course materials did not predict student engagement. Knowledge of goals and standards predicted that students would find course work energising (vigour). Respondents reported that SF affect (where participation at university enhances family life) was related to their engagement at university. In addition, mature age students (over the age of 25 years) reported higher levels of engagement in their study than did younger students.

Research limitations/implications

The dominant predictor of student well-being (LC) was redolent of two important psychological human needs (affiliation and mastery). The central nature of this variable to student well-being is therefore currently undifferentiated and calls for the application of more finely tuned instruments to predict student well-being.

Originality/value

The current research applied measures from the widely validated Course Experience Questionnaire (Ramsden, 1991) as predictors of students’ psychological engagement and burnout. It highlights the value of personal relationships and community in university students’ mastery of difficult course material.

Keywords

Citation

Carolyn Timms, Tracey Fishman, Alexander Godineau, Jamie Granger and Tariro Sibanda (2018) "Psychological engagement of university students", Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education, Vol. 10 No. 3, pp. 243-255

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DOI

: https://doi.org/10.1108/JARHE-09-2017-0107

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

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