Elaboration of a questionnaire to identify the characteristics and school engagement of students enrolled in secondary VET
The aim of the questionnaire is to identify and describe the characteristics of pupils enrolled in secondary VET in Spain, and is one of the instruments of a longitudinal study aimed at describing the dropout and successful itineraries of the students enrolled in this training. The questionnaire is part of the research activities of the project "Success and dropout pathways in vocational training educational system levels 1 and 2" focused on providing evidences on a scientific basis and intervention guides and resources, that contribute to improving knowledge of the VET in Spain and, more specifically, to prevent and correct the serious problem of school dropouts at these levels.
In order to collect the information within the first phase of the study, we developed a questionnaire that identifies, according to a global model, the dropouts and educational success cases, the characteristics and the student engagement between Spanish students enrolled in secondary VET programs.
The purpose of this paper is to present a measuring instrument where specific categories and variables define a higher or lower school engagement in different areas and therefore, a greater or lesser risk of dropping out in the short or long term.
The concept of student engagement, developed from the 80s to understand the problem of school dropouts and to design interventions to prevent this from happening, underlies and provides the theoretical framework to the instrument.
According to Reschly & Christenson (2012), the notion of student engagement is understood as a concept that requires four areas/perspectives of analysis: emotional, cognitive, behavioural, and academic. According to these authors, the first area consists on affection (on positive and negative) related to interactions between students and teachers, peers and the school in general. The second is based in personal investment, understood as: personal performance, cognitive or intellectual capital, cognitive self-regulation and/or learning and effort to acquire a good level of cognitive domain (expertise). The third and fourth are defined by participation in academic, social or extracurricular activities linked to their studies.
The four areas of student engagement are characterized as being susceptible to the effects of intervention, being heavily influenced by the various contexts (family, peers, school and community). The emotional and cognitive areas focus on the perceptions of students and precede the behavioural and academic areas, which refer to observable behaviours and results. Each of these four dimensions includes several variables or indicators.
This study, according to Wang, Willett & Eccles (2011), recognizes that researchers have developed scales for assessing the "school engagement" as a global construct addressing the cognitive, behavioural and emotional dimension, such as the Research Assessment Package for Schools, the High School Survey of Student Engagement and the engagement scale of the School Success Profile.
Although these instruments allow a holistic approach to the construct, these models do not provide sufficient evaluation items to understand each dimension individually or in understanding the multidimensional construct.
Based on this multidimensional construct, we performed a review of possible instruments for its operationalization, highlighting the contributions of Student Engagement Instrument (SEI), used in the Check & Connect project (Appleton, 2012); Trousse d'évaluation des of décrocheurs potentiels (Evaluation kit of potential dropouts, TEDP) used in Quebec (Janosz; Archambault; Lacroix & Lévesque, 2007) and a study on absenteeism in secondary vocational education in France (Lannegrand; Cosnefroy & Lecigne, 2012). To complement this, we also used the contributions from Tangaard (2013) in his study on the perception of the Danish students on abandonment in vocational training; Callan (2005) in his analysis of dropouts in training at various levels and types in Australia, Wan and Eccles (2012) on aspects of social support in the commitment/school engagement; or Isik (2013) on the perception of social support of students and locus of control on the expectations of professional result. Other instruments adapted to Spanish population as the Scale of Social Support of Landeta and Calvete (2002), the questionnaire MSPSS of Zimmet, Dahlem, Zimet & Farley (1988) and the Questionnaire on Motivational Climate (Alonso Simon, 2013), were also reviewed.
Among the main results of the research, we would like to underline, that the questionnaire was divided and constructed upon different dimensions, first, in relation to socio-demographic variables of participants, personal characteristics of students and school biography information. In second term, were formulated the questions in relation to school engagement from behavioural and academic perspectives as well as emotional and cognitive areas.
Behavioural-academic dimension contemplate, as variables: school accession and school effort, participation in extracurricular activities and indiscipline. While the emotional area defines as variables: the teacher-student relationships, peer support for learning, family support for learning and perception of parental involvement. Finally, the cognitive dimension raises: the control and relevance of school work, future aspirations and goals, intrinsic motivation, predictors of vocational outcome expectations, professional identity and the risk of dropping out.
This information will allow us to know the relationships between the different dimensions of student engagement, according to the different processes and factors influencing school dropouts. Also, it will evaluate the perception of social support, family and community among students in these formations.
This paper is part of the activities included in the project «Success and dropout pathways in vocational training educational system levels 1 and 2» (Reference EDU2013-42854-R), funded by the Directorate-General for Research of the Ministry of Science and Innovation of the Government of Spain.
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