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How to boost student engagement in Term 1


How to boost student engagement in Term 1

With millions of Australian students about to return to school after a long break, making sure they’re motivated and switched on in the classroom will be at the top of many teachers’ ‘to-do’ list. Indeed, recent reports show that an increasing number of students are disengaging from their education altogether, and in many cases, not even showing up to school.

An OECD report found that boredom is the third most common reason behind students’ refusal to attend school, highlighting the need for educators to double down on student engagement and make sure school is a place they want to be, not just a place they feel they have to be.

Make kids’ transition back to school a smooth one

Dr Emily Berger, senior lecturer in the School of Educational psychology and counselling at Monash University, has conducted extensive research on child mental health and academic outcomes, teacher education and trauma informed practices.

As classes resume, Dr Berger says principals and teachers should ensure that students have a smooth social transition back to school, such as sitting children next to friends.

“Children who have been absent from school are often worried that teachers and peers will ask them questions or make statements about their non-attendance,” Dr Berger told The Educator.

“Principals and teachers can help students to come up with responses to questions about why they have been away.”

However, Dr Berger acknowledged that while school attendance problems are common, they are also complex and not easy to solve.

“Principals, parents and mental health professionals should continue to work together to understand and address issues related to a child’s non-attendance.”

Does your school need a culture change?

Renowned education expert, Emeritus Laureate Professor John Hattie from Melbourne University’s Graduate School of Education highlighted the need for a significant culture change in favour of improved engagement, and more importantly, a stronger focus on whether kids are actually learning as well as they could be.

“Too often, engagement is seen in terms of ‘doing’ – are the students doing the work? Are they completing it? Schools are busy places with lots of activities, assignments, and assessments – doing, doing, doing. But in a lot of ‘doing’ there can be little learning,” Professor Hattie told The Educator.

“Instead, we need to think of engagement as being turned onto the challenge of learning. Like when playing video games, being clear about what success means, providing feedback to move students from where they are to where they need to be, rewarding the attainment of success with even more challenging goals, and investing in the love of learning.”

Focus on strategies that work

Dr Lyn O’Grady is a Community Psychologist with a particular interest in the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people.

She suggests schools look at what they are already doing to keep students engaged and consider what more can be done.

“Schools should revisit strategies that have worked in the past that might have dropped off or update and refresh them for the current climate,” she said.

“It is also important to foster a sense of belonging in the school community, notice any warning signs of school reluctance, and work with parents, families, the local community and external agencies to promote school attendance and engagement.”

In summary, Dr O’Grady suggests the more we connect together, the easier it will become, and the more cohesive it will be in terms of parents and students to get the support and lessen the load on schools.

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