A solution for unmotivated and disengagd students within the classroom :
An effective teacher’s guide in creating an engaging and supportive learning enviornment within the classroom
Table of Contents
CASE STUDY SCENARIO 3:
Dexter is a young boy living in an eastern suburb of Perth. Perth people often joke about the suburb being ‘bogan central’. It is known for its crime, and for being a low socio-economic area with high unemployment and social problems. Dexter’s father works as a mechanic in a local mechanics business, his mum is a stay-at-home mum. Both dropped out of school at year 10. Dexter’s brother recently obtained a TAFE certificate to work as a mechanic and is now working part time at a local mechanics. Dexter’s parents reinforce to Dexter that it’s important to do well in school, and they try to help him out the best they can. Dexter has a pretty normal home life. He enjoys being at home. He is an avid (but not excessive) computer game player, and some of his friends and their parents call him an expert at it. He wants to work with animals when he leaves school, but he doesn’t know how long he will last in school. He is disengaged from school and has become increasingly disruptive – the teacher noticed this disruption increased when they began a new unit of work for English – learning about the key elements of stories. Dexter knows school is important, but he often says he ‘doesn’t see the point of going to school’ and his disruptive and anti-school attitude is spreading to other students in the class.
It is essential that educators understand that all children are different, and that they need to try and make school engaging and educational for all. Children who are motivated to learn will generally attend school regularly. Educators need to be aware that some students will develop a lack of motivation and become disengaged. The learning environment an educator provides for their students, influences a student’s experience with the curriculum immensely. In order to promote an engaging and supportive environment, an educator needs to be trained in understanding the importance of establishing a positive learning environment. Educators also need to know and how to effectively manipulate the environment in order to enrich the best learning environment for their students.
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This guide has been created for educators of all learning years, in an attempt to inform and educate the need to address student disengagement within the classroom. The guide will provide a brief introduction on how the classroom learning environment is important for the success of a student’s academic studies. It will also provide strategies on how to create a safe and motivating learning environment within the classroom. It should be read in conjunction with the accompanying teaching strategies and professional development activities, which provide practical steps for practitioners to address these issues.
In education, a disengaged student refers to an individual that does not participate in class and school activities or maintain a sense of passion and interest when learning or being taught (De Castella, Byrne & Covington, 2013, p. 861). This can lead to exhibiting inappropriate behaviour within the classroom (De Castella, Byrne & Covington, 2013, p. 861). Having a student that is disengaged can place a student at risk of his/her academic or social studies (De Castella, Byrne & Covington, 2013, p. 861). There are a range of factors why a student may become disengaged or unmotivated in their studies (McGregor & Mills, 2017, p. 375). An educator needs to be mindful that all children are different, and that they need to try and make school engaging and educational for all (Down, as cited in Gobby & Walker, 2017, p. 125). Understanding the diverse needs of all students, the educator can organise a learning environment that shapes more opportunities for learning experiences (Merewether, 2017, p. 401).
Children who are disengaged early on within their schooling life tend to drop out of school (Anyon, as cited in Down, 2017, p. 122). This may develop lifelong implications on the child; such as a greater risk of unemployment, social exclusion, low income or increased risk of risky behaviours (Anyon, as cited in Down, 2017, p. 122). According to Commissioner for Children and Young People (2015, p. 7), “Between 72 and 75 per cent of primary school students attend school at least 90 per cent of the time. By Year 10, only half of students attend school this frequently. “Of course, not all children who are disengaged in school will end up on this pathway, but, some children may. Therefore, is it important that educators understand the need to establish an engaging environment within the classroom to enrich the best learning environment for their students.
Every student in the classroom carries an invisible virtual school bag, which consists of all their own experiences, knowledge and interests (Thomson, as cited in McGregor & Mills, 2017, p. 373). A student’s context can influence their experiences with the curriculum immensely. Some students are not necessarily unmotivated in all subjects within school. Students’ may just be disengaged in a particular class or subject (Thomson, as cited in McGregor & Mills, 2017, p. 373). In this case, an efficient educator needs to be made aware of these and implement the necessary actions in order to enrich the best learning environment for the student.
The achievement standard of a student can be influenced heavily on their social and cultural background (Gobby, as cited in Gobby & Walker, 2017, p. 13). A variety of factors can include the student’s socio-economic status, cultural background and the learning environment the educator provides. The sociocultural background of a child can raise many issues that can have negative impacts on their performance in the school curriculum (Gobby, in Gobby & Walker, 2017, p. 13). Even though an educator may not be able to see or relate to a student’s virtual school bag, “educators are arguably the most responsible for directlyshaping the daily curriculum experiences of children and young people” (Gobby, in Gobby & Walker, 2017, p. 13)
Students from lower socio-economic status generally struggle with issues in performance (McGregor & Mills, 2017, p. 375). Performance issues can lead to low self-esteem, confidence levels or can even lead to complete disengagement from learning (McGregor & Mills, 2017, p.375). Low income families may face drug abuse, depression and long hours at work (Pearce, 2017, p. 206). As a result, the child may have no guidance in out of school learning which, can reduce their confidence levels and have feelings of isolation (Pearce, 2017, p. 206). According to Down, ‘poverty, unemployment, housing and health’ are the three main reasons that leads to poor education performance (2017, p. 122). “A large volume of both Australian and international research consistently shows that children and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to experience markers of disengagement” (Commissioner for Children and Young People, 2015, p 5). Educators need to consider a variety of ways to structure active teaching methods that enable multiple modes of engagement to promote pathways for achievement.
Another factor for disengagement may be the educator’s own philosophy. How an educator interprets information using their own values, attitudes, beliefs and world views can affect the way they facilitate the learning experience for children within the classroom (Gobby, as cited in Gobby & Walker, 2017, p. 14). Curriculum choices are shaped through an educator’s own culture. “Lack of cultural understanding can easily disrupt classroom learning” (Down, in Gobby & Walker, 2017, p.125). If the teacher fails to connect with the students on a culturally responsive level, students may disengage from the learning. How the educator views the child, shapes “how they relate to children and what they do with them in the learning context” (Down, in Gobby & Walker, 2017, p. 125). Educators that do not have any understanding on how culture and society plays a major role in education performance within students, can contribute to the ‘drift into phases of schooling disengagement and failure (McGregor & Mills, 2017, p. 373).
Gender stereotyping has a major influence on how an individual engages within the classroom. From a young age, children learn about how society perceives “normal” or “acceptable” attitudes, values, skills and behaviors and begin to shape these into their own identity (Jennet, 2013, p.3). In a school environment, gender stereotyping can affect a young person’s academic performance or subject choice. Gender stereotyping and bias influences on how children view themselves and may alter their views of what they are capable of achieving (MacNaughton, 2000, p.27) An educator’s curriculum choices all influence how the child views themselves and construct their gender identity. Therefore, it is important to provide all children the opportunity to play with any toy, dress how they wish, and be encouraged to like any colour regardless of its gender generalisation (MacNaughton, 2000, p.27).
Effective educators need to be able to identify a student that may be at risk of disengaging within the classroom. The most common indicators a student may show include:
– Having a lack of interest in studying new things (Washer & Mojkowski, 2014, p. 8)
– Poor interactions amongst peers (Washer & Mojkowski, 2014, p. 8)
– Do not attend school regularly (Washer & Mojkowski, 2014, p. 8)
– Significant change in behaviour towards learning (Washer & Mojkowski, 2014, p. 8)
– Showing signs on aggression or violence within the classroom (Washer & Mojkowski, 2014, p. 8)
AN EFFECTIVE LEARNING ENVIRRONMENT:
– Encourages mutual respect for all (Merewether, 2017, p.395).
– Well managed and safe environment (Merewether, 2017, p.395).
– Activities and tasks run smoothly (McGregor & Mills, 2017, p. 380).
– Students stay engaged and on task (Merewether, 2017, p.395).
– Cooperating amongst peers
– Well organised and well-planned lessons (Down, as cited in Gobby & Walker, 2017, p. 125).
– Quality management and structure (Down, as cited in Gobby & Walker, 2017, p. 125).
– Positive interactions (McGregor & Mills, 2017, p. 380).
– Feelings of belonging (Merewether, 2017, p.395).
– Positive self-image (McGregor & Mills, 2017, p. 380).
– High expectations are set for all students (Down, as cited in Gobby & Walker, 2017, p. 125).
– Classroom rules and procedures are established and followed
– Make learning meaningful (McGregor & Mills, 2017, p. 380).
The learning environment refers to the educational setting and this can be either positive or negative. (Merewether, 2017, p.401). The classroom environment is one of the main factors that determines the success of engagement and academic achievement of a student. Students learn better if the environment are both positive and supportive (Merewether, 2017, p. 397). Educators can engage children by providing a safe and supporting environment both physically and mentally (Merewether, 2017, p. 397). “The environment includes the physical structures—the size, walls, windows, light, colour, textures. It also includes the materials—the equipment, plants, objects, furniture, decorations” (Merewether, 2017, p.395). A positive environment allows the student
to have a feel of sense of belonging; where every student should feel accepted and respected (McGregor & Mills, 2017, p. 380), Providing such an environment, allows students to feel confident in tackling challenges, ask questions and take risks. In order to do implement such an environment, a teacher needs to create an environment that is positive where a student feels safe and willing to share (McGregor & Mills, 2017, p. 380). Teachers can focus on the physical environment, by placing desks in groups, playing music and providing decorations in order to make the students feel welcomed (Cohn, 2011, p. 3).
Building rapport with students can enable the educator to increase the relevance in lessons and make examples more meaningful (Merewether, 2017, p.401). How the educator views the child, shapes “how they relate to children and what they do with them in the learning context” (Down, in Gobby & Walker, 2017, p. 125). Effective teachers understand that students develop at different rates and can accommodate their different needs (Down, in Gobby & Walker, 2017, p. 125). Through understanding the diverse needs of all students, the educator can organise a learning environment that find ways to bring students’ heritage and community in the classroom (Merewether, 2017, p.401). This can be achieved by considering “students’ cultures and language skills whilst developing learning objectives and instructional activities” and also acknowledging their students’ likes and dislikes (Merewether, 2017, p.401).
Educators can engage children by providing collaborative projects and activities that allows students to engage with one another (McGregor & Mills, 2017, p. 380). Group work, team-based learning all provide opportunities for students to learn from each other. Another strategy is to ensure “that classrooms are connected to students and provide an intellectually stimulating environment” (McGregor & Mills, 2017, p. 380), this allows the students to have a say in their learning and to be listened. “Schools largely ignore students perspectives” which can lead to disengagement in the interest to learn (McGregor & Mills, 2017, p. 380). Linking desks into groups can encourage “a diverse and stimulating environment that allows the possibility to be part of a group, but also to work autonomously” (Merewether, 2017, p.401). Making a student feel a part of a group, invites students to feel valued as listening and attention is being heed to.
An effective educator appreciates and accommodates similarities and differences among students and provides opportunities to “increase the relevance in lessons and make examples more meaningful” (Merewether, 2017, p.401). Implementing the strategies above, will help students stay engaged which will benefit their academic success and in their long-term life.
Early years learning framework
The Early years learning framework, is responsible for setting the standards for learning. This framework focuses on the development of a child from birth to 5 years old. (DEEWR, 2009, p. 1).
The strategies above can be linked to the Early years learning framework from the following outcomes:
Outcome 3- “Children have a strong sense of wellbeing” (DEEWR, 2009, p. 30).
A strategy mentioned above were linking desks together, this can encourage individuals to be a part of a group which makes them feel valued and listened to.
Principle 4 – “Respect for diversity” (DEEWR, 2009, p. 13).
Another strategy mentioned were that educators can organise a learning environment that find ways to bring students’ heritage and community in the classroom to accommodate the diverse needs of all students within the classroom (Merewether, 2017, p.401).
Practice- “Learning environments” (DEER, 2009, p.15).
Another strategy suggested, is that educators need to understand the importance of the learning environment and plan lessons that are engaging before class.
Melbourne Declaration on Educational goals for young Australians
The Melbourne declaration on educational goals for young Australians provide a policy framework for the Australian curriculum that consists of two goals. The Melbourne Declaration focuses on the importance of knowledge, understanding and skills (MCEETYA, 2008, p. 7).
The strategies mentioned above link to Goal 1 “Australian schooling promotes equity and excellence”, as the strategies provide a stimulating and challenging learning environment, which encourages students to explore and build on their knowledge (MCEETYA, 2008, p. 7).
Establishing a positive environment also links to goal 2 “All young Australians become successful learners, confident and creative individuals, and active and informed citizens”. Having educators establish a positive environment, allows students to feel confident when learning new things and motivated to reach their full potential (MCEETYA, 2008, p. 7)
At the end of this activity, participant will be able to identify and discuss student disengagement and apply supported strategies that will increase student engagement.
- On a piece of paper, write down why you think a student may become disengaged within the classroom.
- Discuss with your colleagues the answers you wrote down
- Watch the first minute of the video below and see if you had similar reasons for disengagement within students.
Video 1- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DwzIS39WfKU
- Think of some strategies for each of the factors presented in the video and discuss amongst peers
- Watch both videos 1 and 2
Video 1 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DwzIS39WfKU
Video 2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DwzIS39WfKU
6. After watching both video 1 and 2, discuss if you had similar strategies and if you agree with some of the strategies presented within the video.
For more information on how to establish an engaging environment and to find suitable strategies when dealing with a student that is disengaging in learning within the classroom, refer to the links presented below.
This resource will be a helpful resource to refer to as an educator, as it provides suitable strategies to help increase engagement in the classroom and encourage students to become motivated learners
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yd8ShueyYE0&t=973s (Emily Du Plessis, 2015).
This video link is a great resource to refer to, as it provides educators with some ideas on how to establish a positive and engaging learning environment for their students.
https://www.aitsl.edu.au/tools-resources/resource/positive-learning-environments-illustration-of-practice (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, 2017).
Here is another video that explores some engagement and motivational tips that educators can implement to encourage engagement within the classroom
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s9yOOwGYYfU (Smartatmath, 2011).
A classroom is made up by a variety of different individuals, and it up to the educator to understand that not all students will have the same motivation for learning. There are a range of factors why a student may become disengaged or unmotivated in their studies. If an educator does not do anything about this, it may develop lifelong implications on the child; such as a greater risk of unemployment, social exclusion, low income or increased risk of risky behaviours Therefore, is it important for an educator to implement strategies for engagement. The learning environment an educator creates can impact the student’s motivation and success in their academic studies. Educators should create an environment this is positive every student should feel accepted and respected, which will encourage children to speak openly and communicate. it is important an educator is trained on the importance of establishing a positive environment and learn how to develop teaching strategies for students that are developing a lack of motivation and becoming disengaged. Teaching strategies may include, considering students cultures and language skills whilst developing learning objectives and instructional activities, acknowledging students likes and dislikes, ensuring classrooms are connected to students and provide an intellectually stimulating environment and making sure there is a positive relationship between teacher and student.
- AITSL. (2017, April 17). Positive learning environments [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ia44ChquBVw
- Cohn, S. T. (2011). Effectiveness of student response systems: In terms of learning environment, attitudes and achievement. Curtin University: Science of Mathematics Education Centre
- De Castella, K., Byrne, D., Covington, M. (2013). Unmotivated or Motivated to Fail: A Cross- Cultural Study of Achievement Motivation, Fear or Failure, and Student Disengagement. Journal of Educational Psychology, 105 (3), 861-880. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0032464
- Department of Education, Employment and Workplace. (2009). Belonging, Being & Becoming – The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia. Retrieved from: https://docs.education.gov.au/system/files/doc/other/belonging_being_and_becoming_the_early_years_learning_framework_for_australia.pdf
- Down, B. (2017). Critically reflective practice: What is it and why is it needed now? In B.Gobby & R. Walker. (eds). Powers of curriculum: Sociological perspectives on education. (pp. 118-141). South Melbourne: Oxford University Press.
- Emily Due Plessis. (2015, Feb 3). 5 Classroom Engagement Strategies to Create Active Learners [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yd8ShueyYE0&t=973s
- Gobby, B. & Karnovsky, S. (2017). Questioning how and what we know: New concepts to approach education. In B. Gobby & R. Walker. (eds). Powers of curriculum: Sociological perspectives on education. (pp. 60-85). South Melbourne: Oxford University Press.
- Commissioner for children and young people. (2015). Children and young people at risk of disengaging; How many Australians students are disengaged? University of Western Australia, Perth: Hancock, J. K., Zubrick, R. S. (2015).
- Jennett, M. (2013). Stereotypes stop you doing stuff: Challenging gender stereotypes through primary education. Retrieved from http://www.teachers.org.uk/files/stereotypes-stop.pdf
- MacNaughton, G. (2000). There’s no point in trying to change nature, is there? Rethinking gender in early childhood education, Ch 2 (2000). pp 11-35, Allen & Unwin. Retrieved from https://link.library.curtin.edu.au/ereserve/DC60269750/0?display=1
- McGraw, K. (2017). Identity formation: Consumerism and popular culture. In B. Gobby & R. Walker (eds). Powers of Curriculum: Sociological perspectives on education. (pp. 242-264). South Melbourne: Oxford University Press.
- McGregor, G. & Mills, M. (2017). The virtual schoolbag and pedagogies of engagement. In B. Gobby & R. Walker. (eds). Powers of curriculum: Sociological perspectives on education. (pp. 372-392). South Melbourne: Oxford University Press.
- Merewether, J. (2017). Environment: The Third Teacher. In B. Gobby & R. Walker (eds). Powers of Curriculum: Sociological perspectives on education. (pp. 394-418) South Melbourne: Oxford University Press.
- Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs [MCEETYA]. (2008). Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals For Young Australians. Retrieved from http://www.curriculum.edu.au/verve/_resources/National_Declaration_on_the_Educati onal_Goals_for_Young_Australians.pdf
- Pearce, J. (2017). The trap of binary thinking: Problematising gender and social disadvantage. In B. Gobby & R. Walker. (eds). Powers of Curriculum: Sociological perspectives on education. (pp. 194-214): South Melbourne: Oxford University Press
- Smartatmath. (2011, June 11). Student Engagement & Motivation Strategies & Tips.wmv [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s9yOOwGYYfU
- Washer, E., Mojkowski, C. (2014). Student Disengagement: It’s deeper than you think. Journal of arts and science, 95(8), 8-10. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/24374601
- Image 1 – retrieved from https://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/school-results-dive-as- students-switch-off-says-report/news-story/a454d91865f5007536820b41589e7a3e
- Image 2 – retrieved from http://www.nwfsc.edu/Academics/Departments/Education/
- Image 3 -Retrieved from http://1.bp.blogspot.com/eB0z8ajt8b4/T5X34tPY2JI/AAAAAAAAAAo/2oykEM35EME /s1600/siniflar.jpg
- Image 4 – Retrieved from https://docs.education.gov.au/system/files/doc/other/belonging_being_and_becoming_the _early_years_learning_framework_for_australia.pdf