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Teacher ratings of student engagement with educational software: An exploratory study

Robert L. Bangert-Drowns and Curtis Pyke


The quality of students' learning engagement may significantly influence their learning. Can teachers accurately judge student learning engagement with educational software? In this exploratory study, 3 fifth-grade teachers used a seven-level taxonomy to rate the frequency of different forms of engagement among 42 students interacting with different types of educational software. Teachers spontaneously treated the seven levels of engagement as a continuum, rating students highest on one level or a set of contiguous levels. Teachers generally agreed when ranking students by their typical levels of engagement, but disagreed regarding the actual frequencies of different engagement types. Ratings of software engagement conceived of as interpretive activity were correlated significantly with student reading test scores. Given the authentic classroom conditions in which this study took place, the results are promising for the classroom utility of the seven-level conception of student engagement with software. PA Students are often enthusiastic and persistent in their interactions with educational software. But engaged students interact with software in qualitatively distinct ways. Some work independently, strategically, and creatively. Others depend on clear directions. Still others move from task to task without apparent plan. One might expect very different learning effects from these different styles of engagement. Teachers who make educational use of computer software need to distinguish different qualities of student engagement, so they can better anticipate and respond to different qualities of student learning. Teachers also could aid researchers evaluating the efficacy of educational software in light of learner engagement. This study explores teachers' abilities and difficulties in evaluating software engagement in conventional classrooms. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

* Educational Technology Research and Development, 50(2), pp. 23-38, 2002.

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