Student Engagement and Student Learning: Testing the linkages

Robert M. Carini
George D. Kuh
Stephen P. Klein


This study examines (1) the extent to which student engagement is associated with experimental and traditional measures of academic performance, (2) whether the relationships between engagement and academic performance are conditional, and (3) whether institutions differ in terms of their ability to convert student engagement into academic performance. The sample consisted of 1058 students at 14 four-year colleges and universities that completed several instruments during 2002. Many measures of student engagement were linked positively with such desirable learning outcomes as critical thinking and grades, although most of the relationships were weak in strength. The results suggest that the lowest-ability students benefit more from engagement than classmates, first-year students and seniors convert different forms of engagement into academic achievement, and certain institutions more effectively convert student engagement into higher performance on critical thinking tests.


Student engagement, Critical thinking, Value added, NSSE, Student learning


The purpose of this study was to look at the relationship between student engagement and academic performance (critical thinking and performance) through comparisons of SAT scores with critical thinking measurements conducted by the RAND corporation, prompts on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and GPA. 1,058 students from a variety of college settings were recruited and completed data, 940 completed the RAND tests and 506 completed the GRE tests. Results suggest students who scored in the lowest SAT quintile had more beneficial self-reported outcomes from engagement than students in the higher SAT quintiles. In these students, higher levels of self-reported quality of relationships, a supportive campus climate, integration of diversity into coursework, student-faculty interaction concerning coursework, and reading and writing correlated with a relatively minor, yet statistically significant, increase in performance in both the critical thinking measurement and in grades.

APA Citation

Carini, R. M., Kuh, G. D., & Klein, S. P. (2006). Student engagement and student learning: Testing the linkages. Research in Higher Education, 47, 1-32.

About the Study

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Publication Type Journal Article
In Publication Research in Higher Education
Type of Research Quantitative
Research Design Survey research (qualitative or quantitative)
Intervention/Areas of Study Cognition or cognitive learning, Engagement
Level of Analysis Student-level
Specific Populations Examined First-year students, Undergraduates
Peer-Reviewed Yes
Specific Institutional Characteristics of Interest 4-year Institution
Specific Course or Program Characteristics
Outcome Variables of Interest Academic achievement or performance, including assessment scores and course grades, Learning effectiveness
Student Sample Size 500 +
Citing Articles,50&sciodt=0,50&hl=en