Main navigation | Main content
The Student Engagement Instrument (SEI) is a student self-report survey designed to measure cognitive and affective engagement. The SEI is based on a model of engagement that grew out of work with Check & Connect. Check & Connect mentors recognized that successfully re-engaging students required more than meeting academic and behavioral standards of schools. Rather, successful engagement also required attention to students’ cognitive (e.g., self-regulation, perceived relevance of schooling, future goals) and affective engagement (e.g., belonging, relationships with teachers and peers) at school and with learning. Thus, Christenson and colleagues proposed a 4-part typology of engagement that included academic, behavioral, cognitive, and affective subtypes (Appleton, Christenson, Kim, & Reschly, 2006; Christenson & Anderson, 2002; Christenson et al., 2008; Reschly & Christenson, 2006). Indicators of students’ academic and behavioral engagement are typically readily available in school data systems; however, affective and cognitive engagement require student self-report. A search of the literature did not find an instrument suited for this specific purpose, thus, the development work on the SEI was initiated.
Observable, Low Inference Subtypes
High Inference, Internal Subtypes
|Example Indicators||Example Indicators|
Adapted from Reschly, Appleton, and Christenson, 2007; Reschly, Pohl, & Appleton, 2014;
The pilot study of the SEI was conducted with a large, diverse group of 9th grade students. An initial set of items were drawn from the literature and then refined following focus groups with students; a total of 56 items were originally piloted on the survey. Exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses identified 35-items that loaded on 6 factors: 3 representing cognitive engagement and 3 representing affective engagement.
|Cognitive Engagement||Affective Engagement|
|Future Goals and Aspirations||Family Support for Learning|
|Control and Relevance of Schoolwork||Peer Support for Learning|
|Extrinsic Motivation||Teacher Student Relationships|
SEI scores were associated, as expected, with indicators of student attendance, behavior and achievement (Appleton et al., 2006).
Several studies of the SEI have been conducted with students in grades 6-12. Additional research has confirmed the factor structure of the SEI (Betts, Appleton, Reschly, Christenson, & Huebner, 2010; Reschly, Betts, & Appleton, 2014) and provided evidence of measurement invariance and score reliability across grades 6-12 and gender (Betts et al., 2010). Another study, conducted with students in grades 9-12, provided evidence of convergent and divergent validity with another measure of engagement and motivation (Reschly et al., 2014).
With respect to concurrent validity, low- to moderate- correlations, in expected directions, have been found between SEI scores and other measures of school performance (e.g., achievement, attendance, disciplinary incidents; Reschly et al., 2014). Using a large sample (N=35,900) of middle school students, Lovelace, Reschly, Appleton, and Lutz (2014) compared SEI scores for three groups of students: those who were behaviorally disengaged, as determined by absences and disciplinary incidents, with those who were not; students with disability classifications that placed them at high risk of dropout (i.e., Emotional and Behavior Disorders) compared to a lower-risk category (i.e., Speech/Language Impairment), and those with above and below average achievement. Each comparison was statistically significant and with one exception (CRSW and achievement level), in the expected direction.
A few studies have also examined the long-term predictive validity of the SEI. Pearson, using data from a large sample of 8th graders, found that 69% of the variation in college-ready graduation from high school could be predicted from 8th grade variables (e.g., achievement, motivation, behavior, family and school characteristics). Of these, the SEI scales counted for a large portion of this prediction (Pearson, 2014). Similarly, Lovelace et al. (2014), after controlling for demographic variables associated with dropout risk, found that 9th grade SEI scores predicted dropout and on-time graduation 4 years later. A second study sought to determine whether the SEI added anything of value for prediction beyond the data readily available in school records, specifically those indicators commonly used in Early Warning Systems. Two of the SEI factors in particular, Future Goals and Aspirations and Family Support for Learning, contributed unique, significant variance to the prediction of high school dropout, even after several variables that were highly and independently predictive of dropout, were taken into account (Lovelace, Reschly, & Appleton, in press). Finally, a recent study found, after controlling for demographic, behavior, and achievement variables, that SEI scores in the 10th, 11th, and 12th grades significantly predicted college attendance and persistence through the first year (Fraysier, Reschly, & Appleton, 2017).
It should be noted that most research studies of the SEI have used 33-items and five factors, dropping the sixth factor, labeled Extrinsic Motivation, from analyses due to concern over the small number of items (n=2) and reverse coding of these items. However, many schools and districts using the SEI elect to use the 35-item version, keeping the Extrinsic Motivation factor, due to their interest in this aspect of students’ cognitive engagement.
The SEI has been extended downward to grades 3-5 (SEI-E; Carter, Reschly, Lovelace, Appleton, & Thompson, 2012) and upward to college-age students (SEI-C; Grier-Reed, Appleton, Rodriguez, Ganuza, & Reschly, 2012; Waldrop, Reschly, Fraysier, & Appleton, in press). In addition, a brief version of the SEI for potential use in progress monitoring (SEI-B; Pinzone, Appleton, & Reschly, 2017) and a version for students in grades 1 and 2 (SEI-E2) are being developed.
Students’ engagement data may be used to identify those who are at-risk for disengagement and dropout as well as to inform and monitor the effects of interventions. Several resources are available linking these four types of engagement to intervention strategies (Christenson et al., 2008; Reschly, Appleton, & Pohl, 2014, Reschly, Pohl, Christenson, & Appleton, 2017) and illustrating the use of SEI data in applied settings (Appleton, 2012; Reschly et al., 2014).
The web-based administration of the SEI is currently in development. Those who register for the paper-and-pencil version will be notified of any future developments of the web-based SEI. Also, Check & Connect offers the C&C App for sites interested in replacing their paper-and-pencil version of the Check & Connect monitoring form and reporting system.
Appleton, J. J. (2012). Systems consultation: Developing the assessment-to-intervention link with the Student Engagement Instrument. In S. L. Christenson, A. L. Reschly, and C. Wylie (Eds). Handbook of Research on Student Engagement. (pp. 725-741). New York: Springer.
Appleton, J., Christenson, S.L., Kim, D., & Reschly, A. (2006). Measuring cognitive and psychological engagement: Validation of the Student Engagement Instrument. Journal of School Psychology, 44, 427-445.
Betts, J., Appleton, J.J., Reschly, A.L., Christenson, S.L., & Huebner, E.S. (2010). A study of the
reliability and construct validity of the Student Engagement Instrument across multiple grades. School Psychology Quarterly, 25, 84-93.
Carter, C., Reschly, A. L., Lovelace, M. D., Appleton, J. J., & Thompson, D. (2012). Measuring student engagement among elementary students: Pilot of the Elementary Student Engagement Instrument. School Psychology Quarterly, 27, 61-73.
Christenson, S. L., & Anderson, A. R. (2002). Commentary: The centrality of the learning context for students' academic enabler skills. School Psychology Review, 31, 378-393.
Christenson, S. L., Reschly, A. L., Appleton, J. J., Berman, S., Spanjers, D., & Varro, P. (2008). Best practices in fostering student engagement. In A. Thomas & J. Grimes (Eds). Best Practices in School Psychology - 5th Ed (pp. 1099-1119). Bethesda, MD: National Association of School Psychologists.
Fraysier, K., Reschly, A.L., & Appleton, J.J. (2017). Predicting Postsecondary Enrollment and
Persistence with Secondary Student Engagement Data. Manuscript submitted for review.
Grier-Reed, T., Appleton, J.J., Rodriguez, M., Ganuza, Z., & Reschly, A. L. (2012). Exploring
the Student Engagement Instrument and career perceptions with college students. Journal of Educational and Developmental Psychology, 2, 85-96.
Lovelace, M. D., Reschly, A. L., & Appleton, J. J. (in press). Beyond School Records: The Value
of Cognitive and Affective Engagement in Predicting Dropout and On-Time Graduation. Professional School Counseling.
Lovelace, M., Reschly, A.L., Appleton, J.J., & Lutz, M. (2014). Concurrent and predictive validity of the Student Engagement Instrument. Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment, 32, 509-520. DOI: 10.1177/0734282914527548
Pearson. (2014). Middle School Indicators of College Readiness. Center for College & Career Success, Pearson. Austin, TX.
Pinzone, C.A., Appleton, J.J., & Reschly, A.L. (2017) Longitudinal Measurement Invariance Analyses
of the Student Engagement Instrument –Brief Version. Manuscript submitted for review.
Reschly, A.L., Appleton, J.J., & Christenson, S.L. (2007, June). Student engagement at school and with learning: Theories and intervention. Communiqué, 35(8).National Association of School Psychologists.
Reschly, A.L., Appleton, J.J., & Pohl, A. (2014). Best practices in fostering student engagement. In A. Thomas and P. Harrison (Eds.) Best Practices in School Psychology – 6th Ed. Bethesda, MD: National Association of School Psychologists.
Reschly, A.L., Betts, J., & Appleton, J.J. (2014). An examination of the validity of two measures of student engagement. International Journal of School and Educational Psychology, 2, 106-114.
Reschly, A. & Christenson, S.L. (2006). Prediction of dropout among students with mild disabilities: A case for the inclusion of student engagement variables. Remedial and Special Education, 27, 276-292.
Reschly, A. L., Pohl, A., Christenson, S. L., & Appleton, J. J. (2017). Engaging adolescents in secondary schools. In B. Schultz, J. Harrison, and S. Evans (Eds.), School mental health services for adolescents. Oxford University Press, New York.
Waldrop, D., Reschly, A. L., Fraysier, K., & Appleton, J. J. (in press). Measuring the engagement of college students: Administration format, structure, and validity of the Student Engagement Instrument-College. Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development.