Learning engagement across the transition to school: investigating the measurement of learning engagement and the effects of early emotion regulation

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Simone E. Halliday (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/
Julia Mendez Smith

Abstract: Children’s engagement with learning is important as children enter school, as it facilitates both future learning engagement and academic success. Current measures of learning engagement focus on engagement within a classroom setting and be confounded by contextual characteristics. A laboratory measure of engagement may also broaden available lines of research. This study first aimed to investigate the longitudinal measurement invariance and criterion validity of this measure and explore mean level changes of engagement across this time. Second, this study also assessed how the mechanism of emotion regulation, an important factor of early childhood, may influence the development of engagement in multiple contexts. A community sample of 278 children were brought to the lab for assessments at preschool-age, kindergarten-age, and first grade-age. Children’s learning behaviors and emotion regulation were observed in the lab, and questionnaire data were procured from primary caregivers and children’s teachers at kindergarten and first grade. Results demonstrated that five learning engagement behaviors, attention to instructions, on-task behavior, persistence, monitoring progress/strategy use, and negative affect cohered into a single factor at preschool-age, kindergarten, and first grade. This factor demonstrated partial scalar invariance across the three waves of data collection and was concurrently and longitudinally associated with classroom learning behaviors, academic performance, and, in some instances, school attitude. Thus, this study supports the construct and criterion validity of a laboratory learning engagement measure for young children. Results also indicated that emotion regulation at preschool-age was positively associated with behavioral learning engagement, assessed by both observe behaviors in a laboratory, teacher-reported behaviors in the classroom and affective learning engagement, operationalize as children’s school attitude. This suggests that early regulatory skills may promote or constrain children’s engagement with learning. However, kindergarten emotion regulation was not predictive of later engagement, suggesting that emotion regulation before the start of school may be particularly important for engaged learning processes. One bidirectional was also found: Learning behaviors in the kindergarten classroom were predictive of emotion regulation in first grade. As such, emotion regulation may be affected by children’s behaviors in formal learning contexts. This study provided support for a new measure of learning engagement and expanded current knowledge about the mechanisms that support early engagement. This measure can be useful for researchers who may have difficulty collecting classroom data or are more interested in engagement specific to learning tasks. Moreover, this study suggests that early emotion regulation is important for future engagement, and that any effort to improve emotion regulation should be targeted toward children before the beginning of formal education.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2018
Emotion regulation, Learning engagement, School adjustment, School liking, School transition, Validity
Early childhood education $x Psychological aspects
Emotions and cognition
Cognition in children
Emotions in children

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