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Exploring a newly developed measure to assess school-aged children’s school interest in Jordan

Tue, April 16, 8:00 to 9:30am, Hyatt Regency, Floor: Bay (Level 1), Golden Gate


One key aspect of education for sustainability is that students are actively involved in decision-making processes, “such that learners are participants in making decisions about how they learn” (Springett & Kearins, 2005; p. 145). This implies that school-aged children are treated as competent and active agents of their learning. It is argued that “youth must be actively engaged with their school education in order to acquire the knowledge and skills required for a successful transition into postsecondary programs and careers” (Wang & Eccles, 2013, p. 12). To date, a majority of research has focused on the cognitive domain of learning whereas the affective domain, such as values and attitudes toward learning, has largely been neglected (Shephard, 2008). However, students’ values and attitudes influence how they approach and organize learning on a day-to-day basis, alongside their interest in school and their emotional state whilst learning (Beard, Clegg, & Smith, 2007). The affective domain of learning is malleable, therefore holding potential for interventions aimed at promoting students’ educational success (Wang, Willett, & Eccles, 2011; Wang & Eccles, 2013). Changes may be reflected in student learning and academic success. Increased interest in school lead to higher engagement and better academic performance. Yet, a lack thereof may result in underachievement, problem behaviors, and ultimately, higher risk for school dropout (Wang et al., 2011). Various factors influence school-aged children’s interest in school. For example, there has been a growing concern that older children and boys are at higher risk for lower levels on various aspects of the affective domain of learning (Wang et al., 2011; Wang & Eccles, 2013).
To date, studies on school-aged children’s interest in school have been conducted predominately in the United States while less is known about children growing up in other cultural contexts. Similarly, the majority of measures to assess aspects of the affective domain of learning have been developed in the United States. The limited prior research has included samples from Asian societies (e.g., Martin, Yu, Papworth, Ginns, & Collie, 2015; Salili, 1996; Yin, 2018). Only recently, research has become interested in populations from Arab societies (e.g., Engin & McKeown, 2017; Marsh et al., 2013; Marsh et al., 2014). In the present study, we have sought to develop a short self-report measure of school interest and to test its applicability in the Jordanian context. The education of children is greatly valued by Jordanian parents. Consequently, enrollment rates in school are high. However, relatively little is known about school-aged children attitudes toward school and their school interest. Based on prior work (Wang et al., 2011), we propose a multidimensional factor model of children’s interest in school. Our first research question was therefore to test whether the multidimensional factor model provided a better fit to the data than a unidimensional factor model. Our second research question examined the extent to which school interest varied by age and gender. Informed by prior research, we assumed that older children/boys would show lower interest in school compared to younger children/girls.
Participants were 325 children (53% girls) from Jordan. Children were, on average, 8.62 years old (SD=1.82). Parents provided their written consent for the child to participate prior to the data collection. We developed items to assess school-aged children’s interest in school, focusing on school in general (domain-general aspects of school interest; e.g., “Do you feel happy when you go to school?”) and one important domain of learning, i.e., reading (domain-specific aspects of school interest; e.g., “Do you want to go to school because you like to read?”). Experts from Jordan were consulted to ensure the relevance of the items for the Jordanian context. The final questionnaire consisted of 10 items. Students were asked to respond to each item using a four-point scale (1=not at all to 4=a lot). Higher scores indicated higher levels of school interest. If necessary, items were recoded.
Results and Conclusion
To answer the first research question, confirmatory factor analyses (CFAs) were specified. Two models were tested: Model 1 was a unidimensional model with all 10 items loading on a single latent variable that could be conceptualized as school interest. Model 2 was a multidimensional model with the latent factors domain-general school interest and domain-specific school interest, reflecting two major areas of students’ interest in school. Domain-general school interest was represented by six items; the remaining four items represented domain-specific school interest with regard to reading. Across all of the fit statistics, the multidimensional factor model fit (𝛘2=53.30, p<.05, RMSEA=.03, CFI=.98, TLI=.98, SRMR=.03) was better than that of the unidimensional factor models (𝛘2=124.36, p<.05, RMSEA=.09, CFI=.86, TLI=.81, SRMR=.07). The Satorra Bentler test further indicated that the multidimensional factor model was a significantly better fit to the data than the unidimensional factor model. Internal consistency of the two factors was acceptable (Cronbach’s alpha ranging between .72-.95). In general, students reported moderate to high levels of school interest. However, a regression analyses, controlling for family background variables, showed variation based on students’ age and gender. We found a significant association with age (β=-.23, p<.01), confirming our hypothesis that older children reported lower levels of school interest. In addition, gender was significantly associated with school interest (β=-.20, p<.01), indicating that boys had lower levels of school interest.
Taken together, the results provide preliminary evidence for the applicability of the newly developed short self-report measure to assess Jordanian students’ school interest. Despite relatively high levels of school interest indicated by the students in the present sample, individual differences exist. Increasing school interest, in particular for boys and older students, might have the potential to prevent student boredom and low achievement and increase students taking agency of their learning. In order to promote school interest, however, further studies are needed to better understand the various factors, both at the level of the individual student and of the context (including family and school), that influence school interest.