How to Identify and Combat Student Apathy

How to Identify and Combat Student Apathy

Inattentiveness during class could be a sign of poor sleeping habits—or indicative of a larger sense of apathy toward school, according to Education Week. A recent nationally representative survey by the Pew Research Center found that nearly half of teachers say that students showing little to no interest in learning is a “major problem” in their classrooms.

There are many potential reasons behind student apathy and disengagement, including mental health issues, family problems, troubled peer relationships, and academic difficulties. While teachers can’t always solve the root of the problem alone, they are still key partners in the solution, experts say.

Studies have found that students who have a strong sense of belonging at school are more likely to be engaged in class and are less likely to be absent. They are also less likely to experience poor mental health.

Tips for Teachers offers these suggestions for reaching unmotivated students:

  • You can’t deliver a personalized lesson to each learner, but you can reach them better by committing to using different teaching techniques throughout the semester. Try mixing up group with individual work time, including moments of hands-on, visual, or aural learning; and offering students chances to lead, choose, compete, or go outside. Or reach out to your Director of Studies for support in implementing opportunities for blended learning or task-based learning.
  • Michael Linsin of Smart Classroom Managementrecommends giving students specific, honest feedback – and then leaving them alone. Catch your student in the act of good work, no matter how small, he suggests. Tell them (in a normal voice, no exaggerated excitement!) that they are doing well. Unmotivated students sometimes expect effusive praise and have grown immune to it. By giving specific feedback and letting students continue their work, this approach aims to plant the seed of pride in a job well done.
  • Students who worry about the wrath of their teachers and parents aren’t likely to thrive. Support your most anxious students and learn what has increased their anxiety. Maybe they have an overbearing parent, are having a tough time at work, or are a sleep-deprived new parent? Make your classroom a positive place by being supportive, positive, and enthusiastic.
  • Using a series of predictable moments can be comforting to students and give a sense of control to the unmotivated. Ideas include starting class by checking homework; playing soft music while students are engaged in individual work; including a “word of the day” moment; or ending class with a familiar warm-down activity.
  • Does your school have a garden, cafeteria, computer room? Hold an occasional class there. However, if physically moving your students isn’t possible, try “getting out” of the classroom by including music, films, and podcasts in your lessons, or inviting special guests (such as an expert in a field you’re studying) to teach a guest lesson.
  • Simple in its effectiveness, the 2×10 technique involves talking for two minutes, each day for ten days, with a student with challenging classroom behavior. What do you talk about? Anything they want to. Why? Because you’ll learn about your student, create rapport, and perhaps even pinpoint what has been troubling them.
  • Tracking student progress helps learners uncloud potentially untrue perceptions of their own development. Use diagrams, simple charts, or color-coding and literally show your students how far they’ve come. Of course, this habit will come in handy for you when it’s time to do your own teacher self-evaluation.


Education Week / Tips for Teachers

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