Student engagement is the psychological investment a student makes in learning. Engagement includes the degree to which a student actively participates in academic and cocurricular activities on campus, pursuing contact with faculty outside the classroom, civic activities and service learning, and cocurricular learning.
Through a variety of tools, campuses are able to measure and track the degree to which students are engaged in their college education. From this data, higher education institutions can determine the barriers and facilitators to engagement and enhance the environment to allow students to thrive and succeed. Student engagement—in all facets of campus life—is an important outcome (and indicator) of the safe and supportive nature of a college campus.
Researchers agree that campus climate and environment play critical roles in the degree to which students engage in their college learning experience. Elements of climate and environment are support for social interaction, faculty willingness to engage students outside the classroom, acceptance of diverse backgrounds and opinions, and safe interaction with the surrounding community. Assessing student engagement alongside climate and environment can yield a connected picture of how students are experiencing the institution.
Studies have found a direct link between the degree in which a student is engaged in learning and in serving the broader community and the student's psychosocial well-being, often defined as affect, outlook, and social functioning. More recent studies describe this aspect of student well-being as “flourishing.”
Assessment teams seeking to improve connections between student engagement, campus climate, and psychosocial well-being will need to connect the dots with a variety of measures simultaneously. The first step, however, is to agree to clear and concise operational definitions of student engagement, civic engagement, campus climate, and psychosocial well-being. A variety of resources are available to assist campuses in this effort.