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Wednesday, June 22 • 11:15 - 12:15
CON01.13a - Engagement and Belongingness: Yorke’s Model in a Canadian University

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How can we foster student engagement, belongingness, and self-confidence? What impact does each have on student learning outcomes – both student perceptions and measured grades?

This project uses Yorke’s (2014) instrument, which was developed for the UK “What Works” initiative (Thomas, 2012). We are motivated by changes to our student mix: more diversity, more students struggling to get established.

For our study, we work with high impact teaching practices (Kuh, 2008). We examine the experiences of new university students, and their perspectives on outcomes – using start and end of term surveys along with quantitative data from the student database. We examine:
  • Student characteristics (age, nationality, gender, language skills)
  • Academic preparedness (high school average, autonomous learning and writing skills)
  • Engagement, belongingness and self confidence – the Yorke scale
  • Learniing outcomes: Student perceptions and measured grades.
We used means comparison, regression and anovas to analyze the data. As expected, the most important determinants of engagement and belongingness are instructor and student efforts, and both are strong predictors of student perceived learning outcomes. Academic preparedness and student characteristics are not a factor in determining engagement or belongingness.

The surprise is that we did not find a strong relationship between engagement & belongingness and grades. Social inclusion, instructor and student effort were relatively weak predictors. Academic preparedness and student characteristics are the only strong predictors of grades.

What Factors Best Predict Grades?  We took a look - the data comparison is attached in a presentation file.

The data raises a big question, which we will examine next round of our study: If the Yorke scale variables (engagement and belongingness) don’t predict grades, are we measuring and focusing on the right things? Should we shift away from engagement and belongingness and back to performance basics?

So what should we be doing in our classrooms? Join us – let’s take a look at the research – and let’s discuss what it means.


Kuh, G. (2008). High-Impact Educational Practices: What they are, who has access to them, and why they matter. Association of American Colleges and Universities, Washington.

Thomas, L. (2012). Building student engagement and belonging in Higher Education at a time of change: final report from the What Works? Student Retention & Success programme.

Yorke, M. (2014). Student ‘belongingness’, engagement and self-confidence in UK higher education. Proceedings from EAIR 36th Annual Forum, Essen, Germany, 29 August 2014.

avatar for Wallace Lockhart

Wallace Lockhart

University of Regina
Wallace Lockhart is an associate professor with the Paul J. Hill School of Business at the University of Regina. He became a SOTL scholar out of necessity – growing student diversity and the challenges it presents mean we all have to better understand our students and our roles... Read More →

Wednesday June 22, 2016 11:15 - 12:15 EDT
UCC 315 (Council Chambers)