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School of Education / Edith Cowan Institute for Education Research / Fogarty Learning Centre




Ure, C., & Gray, J. (2012). Research and Mapping for MCEECDYA Project: Student Academic Engagement. Report 2012. Standing Council on School Education and Early Childhood (NJ1). Original report available here


The Research and Mapping for MCEECDYA Project: Student Academic Engagement has been funded by the Australian Government and project managed by the Department of Education Western Australian (DOEWA), in consultation with a nationally convened Steering Group of jurisdictional and non government school authorities’ representatives. Researchers at the School of Education, Edith Cowan University have conducted the project through tender with the DOEWA.

Purpose: The purpose of the project was to examine the characteristics of schools with a low Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage (ICSEA)

from all jurisdictions that were identified to be making a difference to student academic achievement, and to identify the key drivers and characteristics of successful models of practice for increasing and sustaining student academic engagement. In defining ‘student academic engagement’ this research has built on the definition used in the Pipeline project by Angus, McDonald, Ormond, Rybarcyzk, Taylor and Winterton, (2009, p 101-102): ‘the product of the student’s attention, effor t, emotions, cognitive investment and participation in learning and teacher actions that encourage participation and the development of competence in learning’. This was extended to include school leadership and other factors supporting school change in low ICSEA contexts.

Key Research Questions: The study had two broad research questions, related to the issues of student academic engagement in low ICSEA schools. These questions were: What are the key drivers and characteristics of 1. successful models of practice for increasing and maintaining student engagement? What are the policy implications of these findings 2. for effective, sustained reform at the jurisdiction and national levels?

Methodology: The study examined a sample of low ICSEA schools from across Australia. It was conducted just three years after the Commonwealth Government established its Education Revolution for Australian schools and established the Smarter Schools National Partnerships reform agenda. A review of the targets and initiatives that have been instituted by the State and Territory Departments of Education was also undertaken to provide a broader contextual framework for the study. State and Territory Departments of Education all require schools to monitor and report on aspects of student attendance, student performance and the quality of schooling in line with the national agenda. A case study approach was used to explore school practices in the area of student academic engagement in order to identify which strategies had been successfully employed. The study also incorporated an analytical theory of student academic engagement, supplemented by consideration of recent literature. Seventy-three schools were nominated by all education jurisdictions across Australia as low ICSEA primary and secondary schools whose national reporting data indicated they had made a significant, sustained improvement in students’ academic engagement. A desktop audit of these schools identified 25 potential case studies. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with the leadership teams of the identified schools, and school policies and performance data were examined. Twelve of these schools were selected and developed as case studies, to provide a sample of a range of low ICSEA Australian school contexts. Significantly, eleven of the twelve case study schools were National Partnership schools and their innovations were strongly supported by National Partnership funding. In total 40 of the 73 (or 55%) of the schools nominated for selection in this study were National Partnership schools despite this not being a criteria for nomination or selection as a case study school.

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