Date

2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Education

Department

Educational Leadership

First Adviser

Sperandio, Jill

Other advisers/committee members

Douglas, Roger; Beachum, Floyd; Donohue, Louise

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to measure engagement levels of a population of non-American (Burmese) students attending an American curriculum school overseas, and then compare these engagement levels to those of U.S. students attending an American curriculum school in the United States to see if there were differences in student engagement levels along ethnic, gender, and grade level categories, across cognitive, behavioral, emotional and overall engagement dimensions. The further purpose was to seek out factors that students and school leaders believed affected students' engagement at the study site. The rationale for this is that student engagement is of interest to school leaders, because it is positively linked to academic achievement (Garcia and Pintrich 1996, Covington 2000), positive peer and teacher relationships (Willms, 2003), and the long-term economic success, health and well being of students as they grow into adulthood (Willms, 2003, Zimmerman & Matinez-Pons, 1990). The review of current literature suggested that factors that affect students' engagement include: the school environment, teacher relations, self-esteem, grade level, minority and minority language status, gender, and school administration. All of these factors are further influenced by the actual culture in which students learn. Peshkin (1990) linked curriculum to cultural assimilation of a dominant culture on a subordinate culture. This suggested it is plausible to assume that non-native English speakers have a greater resistance to the American curriculum, based on both their home culture and language. This study sought to explore this possibility.This research is unique in that it is the first time that student engagement levels for an American curriculum school overseas had been measured. Since the study included awareness of leadership of potential differences in student engagement, and the need to modify curriculum to increase engagement for subsections of the student population, it should be of interest to educational leaders overseas and in the United States who serve multi-ethnic student populations.This research employed a mixed-method convergent design model (Patton, 2002), using Frontier's (2007) survey of student engagement, and interviews with the Myanmar school's teachers and administrators. The study found that the Burmese students reported their engagement levels in the American curriculum courses to be similar to those of the American students in the U.S. private school with no significant difference by gender, grade level and ethnicity in cognitive, behavioral or overall dimensions (p's. > .05). The study also showed that the Burmese students reported significantly lower (p. < .05) emotional engagement levels by ethnicity. Students and teachers identified numerous factors that affect student engagement, including active learning, critical thinking activities, partner/group work, and the relationship between students and their teachers. School leaders who serve multi-ethnic populations should be aware of possible differences in student engagement by subsections. More research is needed to determine to what extent factors identified by students and teachers at the study site can positively affect student engagement.

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