Educational Benchmark Study Update: How Schools Can Drive Educational Outcomes through Student Engagement

The Educational Benchmark Study, being conducted jointly by the Imagine America Foundation (IAF) and Wonderlic, is nearing completion. The results from this study will be presented by Michael Callans and Bob Martin at the APSCU Annual Conference on Wednesday, June 20 in the session titled First Look: The Real Impact of Student and School Characteristics on Student Success.

A preliminary analysis, based on what students have shared about their experiences so far, has been conducted. Through this analysis, we explored what impact student engagement has on educational outcomes and what schools can do to increase student engagement.

What is Student Engagement?

Student Engagement occurs when students make a significant, psychological investment in their learning. Engaged students put a large amount of effort into learning. They take pride in incorporating what they learn into their lives.

What Impact does Student Engagement have on Educational Outcomes?

Our analyses suggest that student engagement can positively affect Educational Outcomes. Such outcomes include the student’s grade point average, attendance rate and number of dropped classes, intention to pay back student loans, and perceptions of career colleges.

The graph below demonstrates how one indicator of student engagement was related to an educational outcome. In essence, students who strongly agreed that their schooling improved their prospects for the future had stronger intentions to pay back their student loans (1 = Strongly Disagree to 5 = Strongly Agree).

The School-Student Engagement Model

Both school resources and student characteristics can almost equally impact student engagement. In addition, student engagement had an extremely large effect on educational outcomes.

The figure below depicts our model of student engagement.

Taken together, our analyses suggest that school resources and student characteristics affect educational outcomes via student engagement. If schools want to improve educational outcomes, such as class attendance, GPA, and loan repayment, they need to focus on improving student engagement. To accomplish this, schools need the right resources (e.g., supportive advisor, credible faculty) and they need to select the right students (e.g., those who have time to go to school, those who are internally motivated).

What Can Schools do to Increase Student Engagement?

There are two components that schools should focus on to positively impact student engagement. First, there are School Resources that impact student engagement and drive learning. Such resources include the ease of the enrollment process, the effectiveness of an academic advisor, the relevance of class content to future career aspirations, and the expertise of the faculty.

The graph below demonstrates how one school resource was related to an indicator of student engagement. Essentially, students who agreed that the program they were enrolled in matched their career interests were also more proud to attend their schools (1 = Strongly Disagree to 5 = Strongly Agree).

The second component is through student selection. Our analyses suggest that there are Student Characteristics that impact student engagement and drive learning. Such characteristics include the student’s prior academic performance, attitudes towards grades, study habits, and locus of control (i.e., the extent to which students believe that they can control events that affect their educational attainment).

The graph below demonstrates how one student characteristic was related to an indicator of student engagement. In this case, students who agreed more strongly that they had time to study were also more happy with their academic performance (1 = Strongly Disagree to 5 = Strongly Agree).


It is perhaps not surprising that engaged learners have more positive educational outcomes. Indeed, students who invest in their learning demonstrate great success inside the classroom. However, it may be surprising that schools can do a great deal to increase student engagement.

We are nearing completion of the data analysis and are looking forward to sharing the final results. In the next article we will be discussing a few of the most meaningful discoveries from the study.

For more information on the Educational Benchmark Study, please contact Ken Silber at or 800.977.1401.