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Study: Teacher Influence Key to Student Engagement

A new study published in the Child Development journal concludes that teachers and parents play a more important role than peers do when it comes to keeping adolescents engaged in school.

According to the University of Michigan News service, "the researchers found that social support from adults, particularly from teachers—in the form of encouraging engagement in school, emphasizing the value of an education and facilitating participation in extracurricular activities—could counteract the negative influence of peers."

To conduct the study, the researchers interviewed teens from schools in the Washington, D.C., area and focused on "four indicators of student engagement: compliance with school rules, participation in extracurricular activities, identification with one's school and value placed on education."

In a separate finding, the study reports that students' engagement in school tends to decline between the 7th and 11th grades, and that decline is more steep among boys than girls. Ming-Te Wang, the lead author of the study with the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, explained that the drop may be attributed to the fact that middle and high schools are larger than elementary schools, therefore affording "fewer opportunities for teachers and students to develop strong personal relationships ... "

Jacquelynne Eccles, a co-author of the study, stated that the engagement difference between boys and girls may be related to gender socialization and how teachers and parents tend to monitor girls' progress more closely than they monitor boys' progress.

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