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Youth engagement in high schools: Developing a multidimensional, critical approach to improving engagement for all students


What keeps students interested and engaged in school? Unfortunately, in today’s climate of increased rigor in classrooms, we are simultaneously losing sight of the need to provide students with an education that is both challenging and stimulating. In this paper, we discuss youth disengagement and offer suggestions to improve our overall knowledge of academic engagement issues. We discuss the historical concept of engagement, more specifically, its shift from a uni-dimensional to multidimensional concept, and suggest that research concentrate on better understanding the interplay among setting and identity when examining issues of youth engagement in schools. Fundamentally, we strongly assert that engagement research needs to adopt a more critical stance that provides students with opportunities to examine and to critique the educational system in which they participate (or sometimes refuse to participate). Only when students see the purpose of engaging in schools, as students and agents of change, will engagement and students’ academics and lives improve.

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