Student engagement is not independent of the type of school attended. Nor is it independent of the organisational development of the school. The school’s organisational style affects the work of its teaching staff, which, in turn, has repercussions on the performance and engagement of their students. As Iker Ros, the UPV/EHU researcher, has been able to verify in his PhD thesis, these factors vary when comparing public schools, subsidised schools and co-operative schools, the latter being the ones that fare best.
“The study of engagement is a subject that motivates me a lot, because I believe that a student who is engaged with his or her school is also engaged with his or her environment,” says Iker Ros. As a PhD holder in Psychopedagogy, he has analysed the differences in the organisational development of schools by looking at their typology and the level of engagement of their students, and highlights that the best results were achieved at the associated work co-operative school in Vitoria-Gasteiz (Basque Country). The study was carried out with students from primary and secondary school. The thesis is entitled “Desarrolloorganizacional de unacooperativa de trabajoasociado y la Implicación de sus estudiantes y docentes” (Organisational Development of an associated work cooperative and the Engagement of its students and teaching staff) and some of his conclusions have been published recently in the Revista de Psicodidáctica.
The greater the organisational development, the more engagement there is
According to the results, organisational development is higher in a co-operative than in subsidised schools, and public schools come between the two. “We have established highly significant statistical differences,” explains Ros; “you have to bear in mind that the associated work co-operative is much more horizontal. In schools of this kind people collaborate more, and this leads to greater organisational learning. They are organisations that learn.”
As far as the students are concerned, it has also been the students at a co-operative school who have displayed the greatest engagement, while those of the public schools are the most hostile. “If the biggest difference in the engagement of the workers is to be found between the co-operative and the subsidised schools, the same thing does not happen with respect to the students. The biggest difference emerges between the co-operative and the public schools, which indicates to us that work clearly needs to be done with the students attending public schools which, despite having a more similar organisational development, have less engagement," reflects Ros.
This engagement is made up of three elements: the emotional or psychological aspect, translated into the feeling of belonging to the school; the behavioural element, which is extracted from the data on student participation in teaching and extramural activities; and the cognitive element that has to do with the students’ perception of academic work and future expectations. “It is a subject that is of great educational importance in the Anglo-Saxon sphere and in China and Taiwan as well," stresses the author, "but studies on the subject have not yet been published here."
Ros has also detected differences with respect to the sex and age of the students. For example, engagement is greater among girls than among boys, and in both cases falls with age, above all at secondary school and sixth form levels.
In this study the author also wanted to check whether the teaching staff is the factor that most influences the students, as established by previous pieces of research. On the basis of the hypothesis that the greater the organisational development is, the greater and better the work of the teaching staff is, and consequently the greater student engagement is, Ros believes that the results leave no room for doubt. “The results seem to indicate that, in actual fact, the work of the teacher and his/her engagement would need to be better considered, but this is being undermined today at a time of cutbacks," he stresses. In this respect, Ros foresees an increase in the number of associated work co-operative schools due primarily to two factors: firstly, the economic crisis, and the fall in the number of members of religious orders who are putting the management of their schools into the hands of teachers through co-operative formulas.
The research was carried out at 14 public (10) and subsidised (4) schools in the Basque Country and Catalonia —in collaboration with the Autonomous University of Barcelona—; and at an associated work co-operative school in Vitoria-Gasteiz. A total of 1,273 students between 9 and 17, and 343 teachers participated in the study.