The Impact of the Relationship of Social/Emotional, Cognitive, and Behavioral Engagements on Developing Preservice Teachers’ Digital Competencies

Areej ElSayary, Laila Mohebi, Lawrence Meda
Journal of Information Technology Education: Research  •  Volume 21  •  2022  •  pp. 269-295

This study investigates the impact of the relationship between social/emotional, cognitive, and behavioral engagements on developing preservice teachers’ digital competencies. The social/emotional engagement can be illustrated with actions associated with learning, such as excitement, interest, and motivation. Cognitive engagement is the active process of learning and is the most essential form of learning. Finally, behavioral engagement is the physical behavior associated with doing the work and following the rules.

Teachers’ digital competencies are essential in creating an active e-learning environment that ensures students’ engagements and reduces learners’ sense of isolation. Due to the lockdown of COVID-19 in March 2020, schools and universities shifted toward e-learning, where higher education in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) experienced a digital transformation. Many questions have been raised about life after COVID-19, competencies needed for the new demands of jobs that do not yet exist, social/emotional development of students, and their engagements in online classes.

An explanatory sequential mixed-method approach was utilized, using a quantitative data method followed by a qualitative data method. An online survey was used to collect the quantitative data from participants. The convenient research population is female preservice teachers who are considered learners enrolled in semesters 3-8 and learning online. Focus group discussions were used to collect the qualitative data from selected participants.

The findings of the study contribute toward a deeper understanding of the relationship between social/emotional, cognitive, and behavioral engagements and their positive impact on developing learners’ digital competencies. The results can be leveraged during or after the pandemic to design strategies and pedagogies that enhance learners’ engagements and develop their digital competencies based on the conceptual framework of the study.

The study’s results reveal a significant positive correlation between social/emotional, cognitive, and behavioral engagements that lead to the development of preservice teachers’ digital competency. The relationship between social/emotional and cognitive engagements is stronger than between cognitive and behavioral engagements, while the relationship between social/emotional and behavioral engagements is balanced.

Instructors need to consider students’ well-being and avoid the sense of isolation among students through designing strategies and pedagogies using the framework of the study that enhance learners’ engagements. More focus is needed on training instructors and educators in using different interactive applications that enhance learners’ and educators’ digital competency.

The findings provide theoretical evidence of the impact of the relationship between social/emotional, cognitive, and behavioral engagements on developing learners’ digital competencies. However, this study was conducted in an early childhood education program in higher education where all the participants were females. It is highly recommended that future research repeats the study with male and female participants, as well as implement the study with different age groups from k-12 students.

This research highlights the importance of considering the social/emotional, cognitive, and behavioral engagements in developing learners’ digital competencies. It is interestingly important to reinforce the teaching, cognitive and social presence among all instructors and teachers due to the positive impact on students’ online learning.

Future research on measuring the impact of transforming students’ design thinking mindset after using interactive technology is recommended. In addition, it is highly recommended to consider measuring how the students’ learning is influenced by the teaching presence of their instructors. Also, it is recommended that future research considers measuring the instructors’ digital competencies and their impact on planning instructional activities.

social/emotional engagement, cognitive engagement, behavioral engagement, digital competency
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