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dc.contributor.advisorStein, Sarah
dc.contributor.advisorNicholson, Helen
dc.contributor.authorAsare, Samuel
dc.identifier.citationAsare, S. (2017). Exploring undergraduate students’ perceptions of factors influencing their engagement and alienation in higher education (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy). University of Otago. Retrieved from
dc.description.abstractStudent engagement has been identified as having a positive influence on learning and retention. This has attracted much research on how to enhance engagement in higher education. Studies have considered the role of student motivation and various environmental factors that affect engagement. However, these studies are concentrated in Western countries including US, Canada, UK, Australia and New Zealand. The few done in Africa have been in South Africa. Drawing on Mann’s (2001) framework of engagement and alienation, this study explores undergraduate students’ perceptions of factors influencing their engagement and alienation in a public university in Ghana. The study adopted a case study design underpinned by an interpretive approach to provide a broad and in-depth understanding of how student motivation interacts with factors relating to teachers, family and peers to produce engaged and alienated experiences. Three data sources were drawn upon in this study: survey, diary and interview. The survey included 469 Humanities students selected by quota sampling from main campus, city campus and distance learning across all year levels. Of the 469 students surveyed, 225 agreed to keep a diary of their learning experiences for two days and participate in a one-on-one interview. Purposive sampling was used to select 17 students for diaries and interviews by considering both male and females, year of study, mode of study (distance learning, city campus and main campus) as well as respondents’ availability for interviews. This ensured that data were collected from a wide range of perspectives. The analysis was in two forms. First, survey data were analysed with Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) to find percentages and means of the responses. In addition, ANOVA (Analysis of Variance) and t-tests were conducted to determine any differences among students’ perceptions at the time of the survey. In some instances, where there were differences, a post hoc test was conducted to determine which groups were different from each other. Second, data from diaries and interviews were analysed using the general inductive approach to develop themes relating to the objectives of the study. The analysis was guided by a framework that highlighted students reported engaged and alienated experiences. The study resulted in a new conceptual framework that brings the various parts of the findings together. This study suggested that students’ need for belonging, competence and autonomy spurred them on to invest more time and effort in their learning. However, autonomy and belonging had different influences depending on the year of study. First year students reported the highest level of influence compared with students of other year levels. Engagement was influenced by students’ desire to achieve goals: to be knowledgeable; for postgraduate study; and to gain a high-paying job. In addition, students reported engaged and alienated experiences resulting from four teacher factors: level of knowledge; teaching approaches; relationships with students; and support. Also, almost all students received support from their family and most of them thought that family support had a lot of influence on their engagement. Engagement was influenced by financial and social support as well as the monitoring of their academic performance by their parents. Interactions with peers influenced engagement in academic and social ways. For instance, students shared learning material such as textbooks, lecture notes and computers. Furthermore, students reported improved self-confidence and a better understanding of their subject by interacting with their peers in formal and informal contexts. Despite the positive influence of peers, a small number of students reported feeling pressured by their peers to spend most of their study time partying, and some members not contributing during group study. The findings add an alternative voice to the growing literature on student engagement by presenting data from a context that has not been explored in this way before. It has shown the usefulness of engagement and alienation as a framework to investigate students’ learning in higher education. The few existing studies that have applied the framework did not analyse data as has been done in this study. Thus, this study has provided new insights. In addition, the findings revealed that students have the desire to work hard to achieve their goals, but these desires will need positive contributions from the environment to achieve much results. Summarising, the implications of the findings include the need for higher education institutions to invest in teacher professional development and to seek ways to collaborate with families of students who may be struggling academically, to enhance their engagement.
dc.publisherUniversity of Otago
dc.rightsAll items in OUR Archive are provided for private study and research purposes and are protected by copyright with all rights reserved unless otherwise indicated.
dc.subjectundergraduate students, engagement, alienation, student experience, higher education, university, Ghana.
dc.titleExploring undergraduate students’ perceptions of factors influencing their engagement and alienation in higher education
dc.language.rfc3066en Education Development Centre of Philosophy of Otago
otago.openaccessAbstract Only
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