Facilitating Student Engagement: The Importance of Life Satisfaction

Ashley Denice Lewis, University of South Carolina


This study sought to understand the longitudinal relationships between multidimensional aspects of students' engagement with school and their overall life satisfaction. Student engagement has been conceptualized as the degree to which a student cognitively, emotionally, and behaviorally participates in school. It was hypothesized that adolescent students' life satisfaction would broaden thinking and behavior, such as student engagement, based on the Broaden and Build Theory of Positive Emotions (Fredrickson, 2001). Thus, individual differences in life satisfaction would lead to increases in cognitive, emotional, and behavioral student engagement. Likewise, it was also hypothesized that individual differences in multidimensional student engagement would predict increases in life satisfaction. To test this bidirectional hypothesis, 779 middle school students completed a global measure of life satisfaction and measures of cognitive, emotional, and behavioral engagement at two time points, 5 months apart. A statistically significant bidirectional relationship between life satisfaction and cognitive engagement was found, but no significant relationship was found between life satisfaction and emotional or behavioral student engagement. Implications for school professionals and future research are discussed.