8 ways to engage disengaged students

Posted on 2017/06/19


This is a question that has plagued educators for as long as they have had the role to teach, and students to learn. Large class sizes and under-resourced schools has only served to exacerbate the problems of disengaged students. Teachers are having to work harder than ever to introduce methods into the classroom that improve learning outcomes.

1.   Big bang change

If disengagement has become a problem, it can be really useful to create a burst of change to disrupt the current dynamic and lay the foundation for some of the other changes. You might consider a complete lesson plan format change, moving everybody’s seats, or in extreme cases swapping teachers around.


2.   Give students some control

A great way to do this is to give students control over the direction of content. This could be done by using real time polls during the class, asking students to decide what they want to learn about next.


3.   Define the objectives

Sometimes disengagement can simply be due to students not understanding what the purpose is of what they are learning, and how it all comes together. It is important to share and explain what is being worked towards.


4.   Create a threat-free environment

Students typically don’t like to be put on the spot. Gather information in less public ways, such as using real time interactive polls.


5.   Change your scenery

The four walls of a classroom can become stifling. Consider teaching outside in the good weather, or planning field trips.


6.   Use positive competition

Positive competition is a great way to engage students and get them interested. Perhaps split the students into two teams and do a quiz or other activity.


7.   Praise

Praise students in small and bigger ways when they achieve something. For younger students, star charts are a great tool, and for older students verbal praise works really well.


8.   Give students responsibility

A great way to do this is by assigning classroom duties, such as handing out materials, or getting students to mark each other’s work. Let the students feel that they are trusted and seen as responsible. The type and complexity of responsibility can develop as the student gains more and more trust from the teacher.

In Summary

Proactively avoiding students becoming disengaged should be a priority for all teachers. However in cases where students have become disengaged, the 8 tips above are incredibly powerful to create a shift and restore student engagement.