Deconstructing Engagement: Rethinking Involvement in Learning

Nicola Whitton*, Alex Moseley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Background. The discourse of learner engagement has become prevalent in formal education research and practice in recent years. However, the term has multiple meanings and various constructions, particularly in the context of games and learning, where the coming together of two different disciplinary constructs creates ambiguity and tensions.

Aim. The notions of engagement with education and engagement with games are not necessarily mutually compatible, and this article aims to explore this.

Method. This article starts by exploring the use of the term by deconstructing the idea of engagement, and highlighting issues with the way in which people use it in different contexts. Next, it discusses practical and theoretical limitations of the concept, such as the assumed link between engagement and learning and measurement of engagement.

Results. The core contribution of the article is a synthesis of the complex literature in this field presented as a model of engagement with learning based on six ways of constructing engagement: participation, attention, captivation, passion, affiliation, and incorporation.

Conclusion. The article concludes by discussing the benefits and possible uses of this model, and highlighting necessary further research to forward the field of games and learning in this area.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)433-449
Number of pages17
JournalSimulation and Gaming
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes

Cite this