Download Poster and Paper (916 KB)


From the beginning of my experience at Marquette, I continually observed students that appeared to demonstrate no enthusiasm for getting an education, reflected in a noticeable lack of participation in class discussions. I felt my expectations of academia being crushed as students boasted about skipping lectures and passively sat in class, seemingly disinterested in the professor and the material. If college was truly regarded as an opportunity for intellectual growth, why did students treat education as nothing more than an obligation? Through mixed-method, qualitative research, combining observation, interviews, and review of scholarly literature, this project examines what factors influence student engagement in the learning environment.

Publication Date

Spring 2015


Undergraduate, Participation, Classroom, Learning Environment, Higher Education, Students, Motivation, Engagement


A poster and paper completed for English 3210.

After her experience in "Ethnography of the University," Megan Knowles continued her research with support of an Undergraduate Research Grant from the College of Arts and Sciences. In fall 2015, Megan attended the Naylor Workshop for Undergraduate Research in Writing Studies in York, Pennsylvania, and there she workshopped a draft of her revised project, sharing new data and analysis. In spring 2016, Megan then presented the new poster (an extension of her initial project) at the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC) in Houston, Texas. Click here to view the new poster.

Higher Education: Obligation or Opportunity?