What to do when students lack interest in your subject?


As a secondary teacher, it’s likely you’ll face challenging situations in the classroom, but how can you go about boosting engagement if a youngster lacks interest in your subject? It’s a common question, and one which comes with a range of potential solutions and approaches, as we explore here.

Understanding why a pupil may lack interest should also influence your decisions, as you may need a more empathetic approach, depending on the reasoning.

For instance, some youngsters may have trouble concentrating, while others may have learning disabilities or be influenced by issues happening outside of the school environment. Each will require a slightly different teaching approach.

If you can, try to find out why pupils are behaving the way they are. That way, you should be best placed to discover why they might lack interest in your subject.

Ensure your classroom is welcoming

All pupils should feel safe and welcomed in your classroom, and you should put an emphasis on making it as inclusive and as friendly as possible. This starts with the language you use when addressing pupils and how you interact with them generally. Bold wall displays and a lack of clutter can also help to make it a more comfortable environment.  

Alter your classroom layout or seating

A simple solution to boost engagement in lessons is to change its layout or seating pattern. Moving children away from their close peers can mean they refocus, while other class members may also be able to support their development. If you have a mixed ability class, you may wish to divide children up into small working groups including a range of abilities, as this can enable pupils to work together towards your chosen learning goals. 

Praise your class

Positive language and praise can go a long way to boosting a child’s self-esteem, although there are various ways of delivering it. For example, you may want to use written praise for youngsters who don’t love the limelight, such as comments on their work or a letter for them to take home. Simply recognising positive efforts can help to increase feelings of self-worth and help pupils to foster a greater love for your subject matter.

Make learning authentic

Various academic research shows that using real-life scenarios and stories in the classroom boosts engagement, so put a focus on keeping things authentic. It enables pupils to make a link between their own lives and what they are learning, which can also help to enhance their understanding. When youngsters are more engaged, they are more likely to take an interest in your subject matter and retain the knowledge that is being passed on.

Make sure children know why they are learning

Some pupils may find your subject overwhelming, simply because they’re struggling to understand the work. Try to break down information into manageable chunks and attach clear learning objectives to every lesson. If pupils can understand why they are learning what they are, the likelihood is that their engagement levels will be higher too.

Take advantage of the resources at your disposal

The internet is packed with useful resources, so look to use all that you can to garner interest in your subject matter. Mixing up the modes of media you use can help to, such as using video and audio alongside slideshows. This tends to keep pupils constantly thinking and questioning what they see and hear – a key factor in keeping them interested. If you can, you might even be able to turn to the help of guest speakers to really give your lessons that extra ‘wow’ factor.

As you can see, increasing a love for your subject matter can be done in a multitude of ways. But ultimately, you’ll want to ensure that your passion and love for the topics shines through, as this will often be reflected by others in the classroom too.

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