Children's engagement during collaborative learning and direct instruction through the lens of participant structure

Jingjing Sun, Richard C. Anderson, Tzu Jung Lin, Joshua A. Morris, Brian W. Miller, Shufeng Ma, Kim Thi Nguyen-Jahiel, Theresa Scott

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12 Scopus citations


The joint effects of instructional approach and participant structure on children's engagement were investigated in 24 fifth-grade classrooms during a six-week unit on wolf management. 96 four-minute episodes sampled from the lesson videos were coded in 30-second intervals for individual students’ momentary cognitive-behavioral engagement, momentary emotional engagement, and current participant structure. Multilevel ordinal regression analyses showed that children were three times more likely to be cognitively and behaviorally engaged and one-and-a-half times more likely to be emotionally engaged during collaborative groups than direct instruction. Children's cognitive-behavioral engagement depended upon participant structure: Children in collaborative groups were most engaged in lessons during peer interaction, whereas children receiving direct instruction were more engaged when interacting with the teacher. Children were more likely to be emotionally engaged when talking with peers, the teacher, or both peers and the teacher than when alone. The study contributes to new understanding of engagement as a function of the nature and conditions for participation in lessons.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102061
JournalContemporary Educational Psychology
StatePublished - Apr 2022


  • Collaborative learning
  • Direct instruction
  • Momentary engagement
  • Observational measures
  • Participant structure


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