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STUDENTS’ ENGAGEMENT IN SCHOOL, PERCEIVED RIGHTS AND GRADE LEVEL

F. Veiga1, R. Burden2, Z. Pavlovic3, H. Moura4, D. Galvão1

1Universidade de Lisboa (PORTUGAL)
2University of Exeter (UNITED KINGDOM)
3Universidade de Liubliana (SLOVENIA)
4Direção Geral de Educação (PORTUGAL)
Conceptual Framework: the value and contemporaneity of the construct “Students engagement in school” (SES) has been highlighted in the theoretical literature, despite of the lack of empirical studies using validated multidimensional instruments. Purpose: to study how the relationships between SES and perceived rights vary over the years of schooling, in adolescence, is the main purpose of the current investigation. Method: the sample included 685 students from various regions of the country, from both sexes and divided by 6th, 7th, 9th e 10th grade. The data were collected in classroom context, through a survey which included items from the “Children’s Rights Scale” (Hart et al., 1996; Veiga et al., 2001) and from the questionnaire “Students’ Engagement in School: a Four Dimensional Scale (SES-FDS)”, specifically comprising the cognitive, affective, behavioral and agency dimensions (Veiga, 2013), with high psychometric qualities. Results: Variance analyses of the engagement results (anova two-way 2x2), according to year (6th and 7th versus 9th and 10th) and perceived rights (low and high), allowed to find a significant main effect of the school year in the cognitive and agency dimensions, as well as in SES total score; the effects of the perceived rights (PR) manifested in all SES dimensions, with a high level of significance, being emphasized a higher engagement in students with high rights; the significant effects of the interaction of the variables year and PR emerged in the cognitive and agency dimensions, as well as in SES total score. In the cognitive dimension, as in the other, the interaction was due to the decrease of the engagement from 6th/7th to 9th/10th grades, in the group of students with high rights, whereas remaining stable in the group of students with low rights. Conclusions: The results, confronted with the lack of research on these concepts, are considered within the perspective of social-cognitive development in adolescence, emphasizing the importance of promoting students ‘rights in school.