2012 WDYDIST Research Series Report One

The Relationship Between Student Engagement and Academic Outcomes

(737.34 kB / pdf)


What did you do in school today? is a national initiative of the Canadian Education Association (CEA) designed to capture, assess and inspire new ideas for enhancing the learning experiences of adolescents in classrooms and schools. What did you do in school today? is one of the few initiatives in Canada that focus specifically on the experiences of adolescent students. And it is the only initiative that focuses on the powerful concept of intellectual engagement.

In this report — the first in our series — we explore the relationship between student engagement and academic outcomes, with a particular focus on the relationship between intellectual engagement and our measure of academic outcomes — students’ marks. Following a discussion of recent results, we reflect on what these findings tell us about marks as measures of academic success. The relationship between institutional engagement (e.g., attending class, completing homework) and higher course marks revealed in our findings is striking. On the other hand, many students do well in their classes without being intellectually engaged. We explore the implications of these findings for policy and practice by highlighting how the most basic of structures in schools — such as marking practices and definitions of academic success — can often block the emergence of practices that support higher levels of achievement and intellectual engagement among larger numbers of students.

Meet the Expert(s)


Dr. Sharon Friesen

Professor, Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary

Sharon Friesen is a professor and President of the Galileo Educational Network at the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary. Her research interests include the ways in which K-12 educational structures, curriculum, and pedagogies need to be reinvented for our contemporary society.

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Penny Milton

Penny Milton

Penny Milton is former CEO of the Canadian Education Association and the initiator of What did you do in school today?

Penny Milton a été chef de la direction de l’Association canadienne d’éducation et a lancé l’initiative Qu’as-tu fait à l’école aujourd’hui?

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Jodene Dunleavy

Jodene Dunleavy

Jodene Dunleavy is a Senior Policy Analyst for the Nova Scotia Department of Education.

Jodene Dunleavy est analyste principale des politiques au ministère de l’Éducation de la Nouvelle-Écosse.

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J. Douglas Willms

J. Douglas Willms is a Professor and Director of the Canadian Research Institute for Social Policy at the University of New Brunswick (UNB). He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, a Fellow of the International Academy of Education, and a Member of the US National Academy of Education.

J. Douglas Willms est professeur et directeur de l’Institut canadien de recherche en politiques sociales à l’Université du Nouveau-Brunswick (UNB). Il est également membre de la Société royale du Canada, de l'Académie Internationale de l'Éducation et de l'Académie nationale américaine de l'éducation.

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