The moderating role of the first-generation status : belongingness and academic engagement

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2023-12

Authors

Wang, Yidan, M.A.

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With the increasing number of first-generation students’ enrollment in recent years, assisting this group of students has been an important topic in recent educational research (see Ives & Castillo-Montoya, 2020 for a review). The purpose of this study was to explore differences in sense of belonging and academic engagement for different definitions of first-generation college students. In addition, my goal was to examine their moderating effects of first-generation status on the relationship between sense of belonging and academic engagement. In this study, first-generation college students were either self-identified or defined in terms of their parents’ educational attainment. A grouping variable was also created based on the overlap between the self-identified first-generation students and first-generation college students with neither parents having a bachelor’s degree. t-tests were used to compare the differences between first-generation college students and continuing-generation college students on scores representing sense of belonging at course and campus levels and four subconstructs of academic engagement (i.e., behavioral engagement, agentic engagement, cognitive engagement, and emotional engagement). Using multiple regression models, the moderating effects of different first-generation statuses were tested on the relationship between sense of belonging and academic engagement. This study included 579 undergraduate students from the University of Texas at Austin who participated in a subject pool for course credit. Results from this study indicated that sense of belonging at two levels were positively correlated with four subconstructs of academic engagement. The results also indicated that first-generation college students with different definitions scored differently on variables of sense of belonging at course and campus levels, as well as on four subconstructs of academic engagement. Finally, some moderating effects were found between variables of sense of belonging and subconstructs of academic engagement for different first-generation statuses.

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