Perhaps the most challenging situation in the classroom is working with students who are alienated or disaffected from the learning process (Brophy, 1998). Disengagement is characterized by apathy, lack of effort, avoidance—when possible—and frustration or noncompliance when avoidance is not an option (Skinner, Kinderman, & Furrer, 2009). Although the reasons for disengagement vary, it is important for teachers to strive to reconnect the student to learning and to school.
- Foster a sense of belonging in the classroom. Develop positive, supportive relationships with disengaged students, even when they seem to resist. Students who believe that their teacher cares about them and who feel connected to the classroom community are more likely to adopt positive classroom behaviors, such as effort and persistence (Ryan & Deci, 2000).
- Strive to connect learning with students' interests. While boredom can be a factor in procrastination (Procrastination), it also leads to disengagement. Getting to know students' background, interests, hobbies, etc. will help create opportunities for developing meaningful, relevant learning experiences.
- Help students to take responsibility for their actions, and to attribute their successes and failures to factors within their control. Teach them to find (or create) challenges in order to make the task more engaging (Brophy, 1998).
Teachers will encounter many challenges as they seek to foster students' motivation to learn. Drawing on theories of motivation, research points us toward effective ways to tackle the challenges.