We're doing performance management at the moment and one of the things I am asking is "what are some of the successes you have had in re-engaging students?" It's one of those big questions in education as some people are decidedly better at engaging students than others.
The main theme seems to be that there is no one solution for all, but there are solutions that work for pockets of students.
- Low literacy students in mathematics benefit from reduced content and increased opportunities to seek mastery (meaning that these students require opportunities for extra classes to keep up with the mainstream). They also benefit from alternate grading strategies to ensure motivation remains high (rather than being pounded with E's semester after semester).
- Students like explicit grading. Putting an A on a paper is a big motivator to try harder. Sending this information home via note or email can also be a big motivator.
- Developing a rapport with students can hide a wide range of issues with teaching practices. If a student believes in you, they will try harder regardless of the teaching technique used.
- Deal with the defiant and disengaged students using any help at hand that is available. Allowing them to potato (sit and hide under the radar) in your classes is not a solution that will re-engage students.
- Set high but realistic expectations.
- Encourage students at every opportunity.
- Be consistent in your attempts to re-engage students. Every day is a new day, but repeated and escalating poor performance needs to be dealt with.
- Seek assistance from parents as soon as possible. Call them in to discuss matters with you. Send test papers home.
- Engage in discussions about futures of students. Two of my biggest successes of 2014 related to students that opened up about their career prospects and then helping them see how education could lead them there. This re-opened dialogue about their behaviour and recreated rapports between the students and teachers.
- Competition is not always a bad thing. A bit of friendly rivalry can invigorate a stale classroom environment.
- Take time to plan. A little preparation in advance can give you breathing space that allows you get your head above water when you are drowning.