How To Handle Disengaged Students

The most challenging task in teaching is solving disengaged students problem. Ensuring that each student is really focused and immersed in the learning process is probably the toughest aspect of any teacher’s job. So how should you handle a disengaged student? And how do you get his/her full attention, focus, and enthusiasm?

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What Is Student Engagement?

The Glossary of Education Reform defines student engagement as:

“the degree of attention, curiosity, interest, optimism, and passion that students show when they are learning or being taught, which extends to the level of motivation they have to learn and progress in their education.”

In other words, student engagement is all about how involved students are in the material being taught.

Are they really attentive to the lesson?

Does the material pique their interest?

How curious are they to learn more about it?

How passionate are they about the subject or topic?

And how motivated are they as a result?

Areas Of Student Engagementdisengaged students

According to The Glossary of Education Reform, there are various forms and areas of student engagement that can lead to a more motivated and focused class.

Intellectual engagement: Sometimes (or, perhaps, in many cases) students are simply not interested in the topic they are assigned to. In other cases, the topic or assignment might seem dull, too easy, and not challenging or stimulating enough.

Emotional engagement: The general environment surrounding the student can have a major impact on how engaged he/she is. Whether it’s the general design of the classroom and learning environment or aspects and events surrounding the student’s life, the student’s emotional well-being can also be a major factor that affects his/her engagement in class.

Behavioral engagement: An exciting and non-monotonous class can help students stay focused and alert and participate more in class activities.

Physical engagement: To further enhance student engagement, teachers may also provide ways in which students can move physically, such as answer questions on the board, or take part in activities and learning games that involve movement.

Social engagement: Perhaps the most famous form of social engagement in classes is group work and class competitions. Students interact more with each other and gain more insight into their work and the learning material while building relationships with their peers.

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How To Deal With Disengaged Students

In addition to working on the types of student engagement mentioned earlier, president and CEO of the Center for Supportive Schools Daniel Oscar suggests that teachers should “tap students’ leadership potential” in an effort to engage students more.

In an Edutopia article, Daniel Oscar clarifies that every student should not be expected to become a charismatic leader or class or school president. On the contrary. He explicitly advises teachers to “embrace varied leadership styles” in students.

There are more forms of student leadership beyond heads of student clubs and school newspaper editors. Students can be given roles that develop their unique type of leadership such as classroom assistant, tutor or mentor for younger students, student committee member, or a school newspaper writer.

Any role a student is given that taps into his/her leadership style and potential, in an area that he/she loves, will go a long way in keeping that student engaged.

Handling Disengaged Studentsdisengaged students

To sum it all up, you can help students become more engaged by addressing each aspect that enhances student engagement and keep them interested, alert, and curious.Tapping into students’ leadership potential” can further help teachers handle student disengagement in class and help develop leadership within the students themselves.


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