Engaging reluctant learners: strategies for motivating secondary students


Engaging reluctant learners: strategies for motivating secondary students

Engaging pupils can be one of the most challenging elements of teaching, especially if an individual doesn’t want to be in the classroom. But if your secondary class is being disrupted by a reluctant learner, fortunately, there are numerous methods which can be used to change the situation for the better.

Here we explore why students may not want to learn and focus on some of the ways to reengage with them in order to enhance their learning experience.

Why understanding is critical to your approach

A key part of this process revolves around gaining an understanding of why they may not wish to engage. Some pupils may be particularly disruptive, while others may simply look to avoid questions or leave work incomplete. If you see a child showing signs of disengagement or displaying behavioural issues, it’s important to communicate with them to find out why.

Look to make sure that a student understands your role and that you are there to support them as a teacher. It’s important to build bonds with pupils and gain their trust while showing that you believe in their abilities. This tends to provide a valuable confidence boost and can go a long way to minimalizing any potential future disruption.

Practical support in the classroom

According to Ofsted, the use of teaching assistants in the classroom can make a huge difference when looking to deal with disruption and boost engagement. Ultimately it frees up the teacher to focus on teaching, while assistants can also provide a further line of communication between the school and home, helping pupils to feel that their needs are being listened to.

Focused support in the form of one-to-one assistance can also be pivotal when looking to drive engagement, especially if a pupil feels left out or overwhelmed by the subject matter. Alternative approaches to delivering lesson content can also help, such as using technology, video or audio. This can help to stimulate pupils in a different way, meaning they might be more prepared to engage.

Methodology for boosting engagement

The majority of pupils are more inclined to learn if they feel the subject matter applies to them in some way. Look to link topics to a disruptive pupil’s interests, as building lesson plans around what they love has been shown to have a positive impact on engagement.

Pupils also need to be challenged, be it with gradually tougher tasks, or by encouraging elements of self-learning. As a secondary teacher, look to remove a fear of failure, if it still exists, and embolden pupils to provide feedback on each other’s work. This form of peer assessment often helps drive greater engagement.

In addition, making pupils feel like they have a choice over their work tends to boost engagement too. If a reluctant learner is inclined to believe they have an element of control, it can help to increase their willingness to learn.

As you can see, there are many different approaches and ways of motivating pupils that can be used, but it’s vital you understand the reasoning for their behaviour. A failure to grasp this usually means that any method used is likely to be unsuccessful.

How Tradewind Recruitment can support Teachers looking for their next role in education

If you’re a Secondary Teacher looking for support in writing your CV and preparing for your interview then we can help! Alternatively, we have lots of resources to help with everything related to you and your career, from top ideas for lesson plans to keeping organised in the classroom.


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