Disengaged Students: Who Are They?
Disengaged students are fairly easy to spot in a classroom. While some people may confuse quiet students or introverts as being disengaged, this classification does not always hold true.
The characteristic trait of a disengaged student is a lack of interest. This lack of interest can be in regards to a number of things including:
The learning process itself
A specific subject
The particular teaching method being used
If a student struggles to see the relevance or usefulness of what they’re learning, they have a hard time learning. The problem that teachers face with students of this sort is that they can often hold a whole class back. If everyone isn’t keeping up with the teaching material, collective progress is slowed down.
That’s why it’s very important for teachers to find ways to re-engage students that are struggling to find the material interesting.
Strategies to Help Disengaged Students
While no one set of strategies offer a solution to getting disengaged students back on track, some have proven to be very successful. It’s important to keep in mind that much will depend upon individual student and what strategies work best in their particular case.
The following five strategies have been employed with success by a number of teachers. Explore all of the options suggested to find the strategies which are most effective for the students in your classroom.
1. Employ Hands on Learning
Many students lose interest in what is being taught because the material isn’t stimulating for them. One way to change that is by changing the method of instruction. Using a singular method of instruction can cause many students lose interest in what is being taught. This makes it hard for them to concentrate or pay attention, and therefore retain any of what is being taught.
Hands on learning is an excellent way for students to experience what it is they are being taught. This practical component is integral aspect of a holistic approach to learning. It provides a way for students to learn by example by directly observing what they’re learning in class.
2. Make Learning Fun
Learning shouldn’t seem like a chore to students. It’s important for teachers to instill a sense of wonder and excitement in students at the prospect of learning. This can be done by making the process of learning or the method of teaching more fun.
Here are a few tips on how you can make learning more fun for students:
Make games out of lesson plans
Introduce variety in classroom assignments and homework
Include projects and group work
Provide information in different formats
3. Provide Students with a Purpose
One of the main reasons why so many students become disengaged is that they cannot see the practical relevance of what they’re learning. Many of them struggle to figure out how the material that they’re being taught will be useful in their everyday life.
It becomes the teachers’ job to help students see the purpose in what they’re learning. This goes well beyond the notion that what they’re studying is preordained by the state or needed to pass certain examinations.
In order to help re-engage students, help them to connect what they’re learning with real-life experiences and examples. When they can see the relevance of what they’re being taught, they’ll start paying more attention and will likely become more interested in what they’re learning.
4. Collaboration is Key
Effective learning is sometimes best achieved through group work. Another way to get disengaged students back on track and interested in what they’re learning is by incorporating group work into the mix.
The social aspect of group work and collaboration can help stoke the fading fires of their interest. When they’re made to work and interact with others, they may pick up information which may not have been as interesting to them when they were hearing it in a lecture.
Another reason why group work and collaboration is so successful when it comes to helping students re-engage is that they begin to see how their peers are depending on them. When students are put into a situation where they’re forced to contribute to a project or assignment, they begin to take interest in the material for fear of letting their teammates down.
5. Give Students Choices
Most young minds crave variety when learning something new. If you open up any textbook for practically any subject, you’ll notice a wide range of information being presented in a number of different ways.
One chapter in a textbook is typically divided into numerous sections which feature all of the relevant information, useful tips, practical experiments/examples, which illustrate the real-world importance of the information, quizzes and questionnaires, etc. The purpose for adding such a wide variety of sources and formats is to keep a student interested.
In a classroom, teachers should employ a similar technique. Include many different modes of instruction, pop-quizzes, assignments, projects, group work, field-trips, games, etc. It’s also important to give students choices in terms of how to engage with the material. This way, the coursework becomes engaging and unpredictable, which keeps them on their toes and attentive.
Each disengaged student will have their own particular reasons for why they have trouble engaging with the material. As a teacher, employing these five strategies can help bring students back on track. Experiment with the different strategies and see which ones work best for specific students.