Educational Benchmark Study Update: Who is Likely to be an Engaged Learner?

The Educational Benchmark Study, conducted jointly by the Imagine America Foundation (IAF) and Wonderlic, is nearing completion. We already revealed some of our findings at the APSCU Annual Convention, where our presentation had great attendee participation, and we are grateful for the engaged audience’s constructive feedback.

In our earlier articles, we discussed what schools can do to increase student engagement based on our findings.

The notion of student engagement is at the heart of our research. Student engagement occurs when students make a significant, psychological investment in their learning. Engaged students put a large amount of effort into learning, and they take pride in incorporating what they learn into their lives.

Essentially, there are two factors that impact student engagement and drive learning: School Resources and Student Characteristics. School 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.

But the question remains: Who is likely to be an engaged learner? Our analyses also suggest that Student Characteristics have an almost equal impact on student engagement. 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 indicator of student characteristics is related to student engagement. 

The graph shows that students who strongly agreed that the important people in their lives support their decision to go to school were more satisfied with their progress towards completing their program. (1 = Strongly Disagree to 5 = Strongly Agree).To succeed is no small task, nor is it an individual one. Our analyses indicate that establishing and fostering student support systems drive both student engagement and educational outcomes. As the graph above suggests, students are more likely to progress through their studies if they have a strong support system at home.

Unfortunately, students vary in the amount of emotional support and encouragement they receive. To this end, one best practice recommendation is to engage the students’ support system. For example, schools could institute a family appreciation night to build stronger support systems. By engaging these student support systems, schools will be able to maximize graduation rates. In addition, by using a student engagement survey across time, schools can determine the effectiveness of their initiatives and use the data to modify those initiatives accordingly.

Our analyses also demonstrate that students who enjoyed studying in the past, students who can easily motivate themselves, and students who believe attaining educational success is within their control are more likely to earn better grades at school. The graph below demonstrates how one indicator of student characteristics is related to educational outcomes. In essence, students who find it difficult to motivate themselves to study are less likely to excel in the classroom in terms of grades (4.0 = A).

A best practice recommendation that comes as a result of these findings is that schools should select students who are likely to be engaged: Those who enjoyed studying in the past, those who can easily motivate themselves, and those who believe attaining educational success is within their control. Such students are more likely to excel in the classroom and are more likely to graduate.

In closing, we are nearing the completion of the Educational Benchmark Study. The information presented in this article is intended to be a demonstration of the kind of relationships around student engagement we hope to uncover in the complete analysis of the survey data.  

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