The influences of study demands, study resources and personality characteristics on first-year students’ engagement
Cilliers, Jeanie Rouchelle
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The first year of university often can be a watershed period for candidates. It is, therefore, important to investigate possible predictors of student engagement. Information on the influence of study demands, and resources as well as personality characteristics on first-years’ engagement could help students and the university to improve engagement levels, thereby impacting students' well-being and success at university. The main purpose of the present study was to 1) determine significant demands and resources associated with student engagement; and 2) establish the incremental contribution that personality make in predicting engagement in a sample of South African first-year students. A quantitative approach was used with a cross-sectional research design. A stratified sample of first-year students at a tertiary institution was included (N = 512). A multiple regression analysis was done to determine significant predictors of engagement. The results showed that Pace and amount of work and Cognitive demands had a significant and negative correlation with engagement, although only Cognitive demands stood out as a significant predictor of engagement in the second and third step of the regression analyses. Cognitive demands became insignificant in the fourth and final step of the regression analyses when personality characteristics were added. All the analysed resources indicated significant and positive correlations with engagement, but only Support from lecturers and Opportunities for growth and development were significant predictors of engagement. In the fourth and final step of the regression analysis the only significant resource was found to be Opportunities for growth and development. In the proses, all the analysed personality dimensions indicated a significant relationship with engagement. However, in the final step of the multiple regression analysis, only Achievement orientation (a facet of Conscientiousness) was found to be a significant predictor of student engagement. The model where personality characteristics were entered added an additional 11% of the variance explained in engagement, thus indicating the incremental contribution to student engagement. In total, the variables included in the regression analysis explained 38% of the variance in student engagement. Due to the present study, additional information is available on the influence of job demands, job resources and personality on student engagement. The benefits for students may include: enhanced engagement levels with their studies, finding a meaningful connection with their studies, and insight into resources which may influence their engagement positively. The university can utilise the information of the role that demands, resources and personality play, in devising strategies to improve the engagement levels of their students. This insight can also help universities’ managers to develop possible supporting programmes or structures that could help students cope with the unique demands and daily challenges. The contributions of the present study are firstly, that this research adds important information to the literature on the influences of demands, resources and personality on student’s engagement. Secondly, future research on this topic can address the limitations that were pointed out and follow up on recommendations that were made on this topic. Thirdly, the study provides valuable information for both students and institutions of higher education, regarding this crucial entry year.
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