Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Education and International Services


Higher Education Administration PhD

First Advisor

Jay Brand

Second Advisor

Jimmy Kijai

Third Advisor

Maria DeRose


The purpose of this study was to examine the nature of the relationship between the use of narrative in the classroom and student engagement. In this regard, the strategies used to connect students to learning experiences are important to ensuring their engagement. Research questions addressed: 1) What is the level of academic engagement among students at Southwestern Michigan College? 2) To what extent are stories embedded into academic courses? 3) To what extent is student engagement related to the use of stories in students’ courses?

To address these research questions, the researcher used two surveys. Survey one used secondary data collected from the 36-item Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE) conducted at Southwestern Michigan College (SMC) in Spring of 2016. Survey two was administered online to students who had participated in the CCSSE, also in Spring of 2016. This survey measured student perceptions of teacher narrative use in the classroom. Both surveys used a non-experimental quantitative approach to explore the correlations among narrative use and student engagement.

A factor analysis was performed using principal components analysis with varimax (orthogonal) rotation to examine any possible constructs or patterns in the responses to survey two. The results of the exploratory factor analysis associated survey items with two factors. Factor one measured the use of stories not related to course content. Factor two measured the use of stories related to course content. Student perceptions regarding the extent to which faculty shared stories was measured with a Likert scale representing frequencies ranging from Never to Every Time. The researcher was interested in any potential associations between student engagement and the independent variable of storytelling.

A canonical correlation analysis was conducted using the five benchmarks in the CCSSE to measure student engagement, as predictors of the nine-item use-of-narrative variables to evaluate the multivariate shared relationships between these two variable sets. The researcher found that students in this sample, compared to national norms, are more engaged in active/collaborative learning, academic challenge, student-faculty interaction and support for learners. Overall, stories were imbedded in courses between 50% to 70% of the time.

Although most results showed only a weak positive correlation, there were three benchmarks showing a positive correlation with the use of stories: active/collaborative learning, student-faculty interaction, and support for students; a significant proportion of the variance in all three of these factors can be explained by use of stories that are related to courses. In fact, the results indicated that approximately 15% of the variance in student engagement could be explained by the use of stories in the classroom.

In addition to its salient practical considerations, this study improves somewhat on the current dearth in investigations that measure the success of the integration of stories in teaching at community colleges. Additionally, most of the studies on engagement in higher education have reflected traditionally aged university students. No previous studies have been conducted that specifically examine the effects of the integration of stories in the classroom on student engagement at SMC, featuring a relatively young student population.

Subject Area

Storytelling in education; Southwestern Michigan College; Learning strategies; Learning, Psychology of