Thursday, April 7, 2011

Institutional Structures and Student Engagement. Research in Higher Education

Porter, S. (2006). Institutional structures and student engagement. Research in Higher Education, 47(5), 521-558.

This chapter in Porter’s book entitled Institutional Structures and Student engagement is an examination of how college structures result in either increased or decreased levels of student engagement during lectures. Although it is not that well aligned with my examination of student engagement in a high school classroom I still found it to be a fascinating read. Porter remarks that student engagement is affected by the “human, social, and cultural capital that students bring to college”. He also says that engagement is affected by the size of the college and classes that students attend. This is very apparent to me as I recently moved from a large public school to a smaller private institution which has smaller classes. The fairly obvious result has been an increase in student engagement in the classroom, and in school life in general. What I have experienced is something that Porter also mentions in this chapter and that is that a smaller institute with a greater emphasis from the school community on the individual student tends to result in a greater student engagement in school life, as well as during class time. The 3 main reasons for this are described by Porter as being student –faculty ratio, the mission of the school, and the selectivity of students who attend the institution. Porter also remarks that the role of peers in higher education has a large affect on student engagement.


“The role of peer effects in higher education is important because it explains why institutional selectivity affects student outcomes in general and engagement in particular” (525).

“Despite its prevalence in the literature, there has been surprisingly little discussion as to why size should matter. Instead, most discussions of size refer to its deleterious effects in a variety of areas; in other words, large institutions are associated with negative outcomes (528).


Johnson, M. K., Crosnoe, R., and Elder, G. H. (2001). Students' attachment and academic engagement: The role of race and ethnicity. Sociology of Education 74: 3 1 8-340.

Hu, S., and Kuh, G. D. (2002). Being (dis)engaged in educationally purposeful activities: The influences of student and institutional characteristics. Research in Higher Education 43(5): 555-574.

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