Examining the concept of engagement in physical education

Peter A. Hastie, Andy Stringfellow, Jerraco L. Johnson, Cory E. Dixon, Nikki Hollett, Kurt Ward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: The concept of engagement is a multidimensional construct that has long been used by researchers as a means of explaining student behaviour in classrooms and schools. However, the research using this construct within physical education has been particularly uneven. Purpose: The goal of this paper was to examine the application of the concept of student engagement with the research literature on physical education. Method: The scoping review was conducted using the boundaries of including the terms ‘physical education’ and ‘engagement’ in the title, being located specifically within physical education settings, and focused on student (rather than teacher) engagement. Results: Analysis of the corpus of papers led to the conclusion that studies could be grouped into five categories, with each differentiated by source, involvement of theory, methodology, definitions of engagement, and intended audience. These were given the following labels: (i) studies involving operational and multi-dimensional definitions of engagement (ii) figurative studies (iii) single dimension studies, (iv) qualitative studies, and (v) reviews and practitioner-oriented papers. Discussion: Given the considerable diversity in the application of the term engagement, it is recommended that future research in the field (no matter the intended audience), should consider the author’s interpretation of the term formally somewhere in the introduction. In addition, it is proposed that future empirical research examining student engagement in physical education could also benefit from including evidence of both student self-perceptions about their engagement as well as observations of their in-class behaviours.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPhysical Education and Sport Pedagogy
StateAccepted/In press - 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Education
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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