Research & Insights
August 28, 2019

State of Engagement Report 2019

GoGuardian Research Team

What is engagement in a learning experience?

GoGuardian believes the digital learning environment must be at its core an engaging learning experience, so we conducted a field research study with over 350 educators and students across the country to better understand and define student engagement. GoGuardian’s focus on understanding engagement is a reflection of our commitment to student outcomes. In fact, research demonstrates that high levels of student engagement are related to “higher grades, achievement test scores, and school completion rates”.¹ Additionally, engaged students typically have “lower rates of delinquency, substance use, and depression”.¹ Given these benefits and protective factors, GoGuardian is committed to understanding engaging digital learning experiences.

As a first step, GoGuardian’s Research & Insights team sought to understand the behaviors and emotions that define engaged and disengaged learning and to identify the factors that influence student engagement. While there is extensive literature on engagement going back to the 1980s, there is not a single agreed upon model or definition of engagement.² ³ Given the varying engagement models in existence, GoGuardian designed a field research study to elicit insight from users (teachers, school leaders, students, and IT Admins) about how they define and describe engagement.

We initiated this research study to answer the questions:

  1. What are the emotions, behaviors, and cognitive habits that occur when students are engaged, or disengaged, in a learning experience?
  2. What are the factors that contribute to an engaging learning experience?

Study Design

In order to conduct this study on engagement, we used a qualitative study design to capture the experiences, opinions, and perspectives of the participants. Given the lack of a consistent definition for engagement in the research⁴ and, rather, the ubiquitous perspective that engagement is a multidimensional concept, we felt it was critical to document the nuanced experiences of the target population: students, teachers, school leaders, and IT Admins in K-12 schools. Furthermore, this qualitative approach allows us to capture a more holistic understanding of the human experience in the selected environment.⁵

The Framework

After completing the open coding analysis of the field research notes, we identified 43 themes. These 43 themes were further grouped into a four-part framework. This holistic framework provides us a lens through which to understand the factors that contribute to and emerge in an engaging learning environment.

  1. Thing to consider: Contextual variables impacting engagement
  2. Things to do: Qualities of an engaging learning experience
  3. Things to know: Industry trends
  4. Things to recognize: Indicators of engagement

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  1. Fredricks, J. A., Filsecker, M., & Lawson, M. A. (2016a). Student engagement, context, and adjustment: Addressing definitional, measurement, and methodological issues. Learning and Instruction, 43, 1-4. doi:10.1016/j.learninstruc.2016.02.002
  2. Appleton, J. J., Christenson, S. L., & Furlong, M. J. (2008). Student engagement with school: Critical conceptual and methodological issues of the construct. Psychology in the Schools, 45, 369 -386.
  3. Finn, J. D., & Zimmer, K. S. (2012). Student engagement: What is it? Why does it matter? In S. L. Christenson, A. L. Reschly, & C. Wylie (Eds.), Handbook of research on student engagement (pp. 97-131). New York, NY, US: Springer Science + Business Media.
  4. Reschly, A. L., & Christenson, S. L. (2012). Jingle, jangle, and conceptual haziness: Evolution and future directions of the engagement construct. In S. L. Christenson, A. L. Reschly, & C. Wylie (Eds.), Handbook of research on student engagement (pp. 3-19). New York, NY, US: Springer Science + Business Media.
  5. Rahman, M. S. (2016). The Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches and Methods in Language “Testing and Assessment” Research: A Literature Review. Journal of Education and Learning, 6(1), 102. doi:10.5539/jel.v6n1p102


As the world of digital learning accelerates, GoGuardian believes it is critical that we study and understand the impact of the digital learning experience on student outcomes. Our research and insights are focused on understanding how the digital learning experience can be improved to maximize achievement in the classroom while unleashing curiosity.

At GoGuardian, we believe the internet is a learning tool and that education solutions are only as valuable as the impact they provide. So as Researchers, it is our job to conduct experiments and gather insights on the impact of the digital learning experience on students and schools.