Abstract||This study utilises a phenomenographic approach to investigate teacher conceptions
of student engagement in learning. The research question asks: “What are the
qualitatively different conceptions of student engagement in learning held by
secondary English teachers in Central Queensland?” The research aims to contribute
to knowledge about student engagement by investigating the teacher perspectives
generally ignored in the research literature. This thesis begins with a review of
academic research, scholarship, and government documents where multiple and
conflicting understandings of engagement are identified.
Phenomenography has been chosen as the empirical research approach because it is
designed to map variation in understandings. Standard phenomenographic analysis is
used in conjunction with two frameworks congruent with phenomenography. The first
framework is based on understandings of intentionality and the second on
understandings of awareness. Together these frameworks allow for in-depth analysis
of conceptions by identifying the parts and contexts of conceptions and differentiating
between the participant’s understanding and his or her conception of how this
understanding is facilitated.
The empirical component of the research involves semi-structured interviews with 20
Central Queensland secondary English teachers about their classroom experiences
with student engagement. These data are transcribed and analysed as per
phenomenographic protocol. This study identifies six conceptions within the what
aspect, teacher conceptions of student engagement. These correspond with three
conceptions comprising the how aspect, teacher conceptions of how to facilitate
The findings of the empirical research and scholarly review of literature build
conceptual knowledge about student engagement. This research indicates that
educational stakeholders do not hold similar understandings of student engagement.
If the concept of student engagement is to become educationally fruitful, the term
must be more explicitly defined in educational research and government policy
documents to promote shared understandings among stakeholder groups.