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Victoria Yancey


A primary challenge to educators is the design and implementation of effective student engagement processes. High school students cannot be successful if they are frequently absent from school, as active engagement opportunities reinforce knowledge and help to keep students enthused in their learning. To address the challenges of frequent school absences, this study examined a gap in the literature--namely, the relationship between active engagement and arts courses as a motivator for students to remain in high school. For this study, active engagement was defined as a process in which the student's interests, efforts, and knowledge culminated in an application of the learning content. Using Csikszentmihalyi's (1990) flow theory, a mixed-methods study was conducted to examine students' experiences with active engagement in arts courses. Data were collected from a survey (50 = x) and phenomenological interviews (8 = x). Quantitative analyses of these data included a paired-sample t test to determine whether there was a significant difference between the average values of students' perceived learning capabilities and expectations for learning in relation to arts courses versus non-arts courses. Content analyses created categories and identified themes that found students felt more engaged, self-confident, and motivated about their learning during arts educational experiences. Contributions to positive social change included increased awareness about how students make meaning of active engagement in arts courses. Such information can help school districts understand more about the importance of providing students with artistic and creative educational experiences.