Research in Higher Education

, Volume 47, Issue 1, pp 1-32

First online:

Student Engagement and Student Learning: Testing the Linkages*

  • Robert M. CariniAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology, University of Louisville Email author 
  • , George D. KuhAffiliated withCenter for Postsecondary Research, Indiana University
  • , Stephen P. KleinAffiliated withThe RAND Corporation

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


This study examines (1) the extent to which student engagement is associated with experimental and traditional measures of academic performance, (2) whether the relationships between engagement and academic performance are conditional, and (3) whether institutions differ in terms of their ability to convert student engagement into academic performance. The sample consisted of 1058 students at 14 four-year colleges and universities that completed several instruments during 2002. Many measures of student engagement were linked positively with such desirable learning outcomes as critical thinking and grades, although most of the relationships were weak in strength. The results suggest that the lowest-ability students benefit more from engagement than classmates, first-year students and seniors convert different forms of engagement into academic achievement, and certain institutions more effectively convert student engagement into higher performance on critical thinking tests.


student engagement critical thinking value added NSSE student learning