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Disengagement in the Middle

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Pauline Laskowski

on 12 November 2013

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Transcript of Disengagement in the Middle

Implications for teaching
Reasons for
There is no easy or standard definition of what constitutes disengagement.

Disengagement involves varying degrees of student estrangement from the learning process and is manifested in behaviours such as passive resistance, withdrawal of labour, truancy, disruptive activities, violence, self-harm and dropping out of school.

(Sullivan et al., 2009; Balfanz, Herzog & Douglas, 2007)
Education Systems
Family and other demographic factors
Disengagement has widespread implications across all of the Professional Standards:
Disengagement in the Middle Years
Pauline Laskowski

A Presentation for Educators
Disengagement can be active (a refusal to participate) or passive (a cognitive or emotional withdrawal). (Cooke & Barnes, n.d.; Fredricks, Blumenfeld & Paris, 2004).

Considering only active disengagement results in severe underestimation of the problem (Sodha & Guglielmi, 2009).
Over two thirds of teachers in an Australian study reported disengaged behaviours on at least an ‘almost daily’ basis.
Why is it a problem?
There is a well-established link between student engagement, student behaviour and academic achievement.

(Marzano & Marzano, 2003)
Evidence from Australia and around the world suggests that disengagement is widespread and increasing with reports of up to 66% of middle years' students being disengaged. (McInerney, 2009; Tadich, Deed, Campell & Prain, 2007)
53% of teachers indicated that students’ behaviour caused them stress.
Disengagement is disproportionately experienced by students living in poverty, youth with disabilities, and adolescents from minorities and aboriginal communities.
(Dunleavy & Milton, 2009)
Failing to complete school can mean increased likelihood of poor outcomes.
This student is...
More likely to live in poverty,
and more likely to be homeless.
more likely to take part in anti-social behaviour
more likely to be unemployed
more likely to abuse drugs and/or alcohol,
more likely to have poor health,
This is an Issue
How do we solve this?
First, we need to know WHY they're dropping out...
(KPMG, 2009)
USA data capturing the experience of 64,836 middle and secondary students confirms that a large majority of students begin to disengage from learning in Grade 6 and continue to do so until Grade 9, where levels remain consistently low through to Grade 12 (Willms, Friesen and Milton, 2009).

has found the following reasons for disengagement:
(Morris & Pullen, 2007)
Teaching and learning strategies
Characteristics of the individual learner
Community and neighbourhood
What students are taught
The approaches used
How students are grouped
Transition from primary school
Available curriculum on offer
Loss of friendships and an under-stimulating curriculum can trigger disengagement.
There is strong evidence that low income significantly predicts low educational performance.
Indigenous students
Those with reconstituted families
Student motivation
Relationship with peers
More likely to engage when lessons are fun, collaborative, active and relevant
Many, many theories
Relational Theory
"A teacher's main challenge is to organize and direct an activity that dramatically lacks intrinsic motivation without the use of violence, no other social institution operates in this way. How do you make people do something they don't want to do? Writing warning slips, yelling, lunch detentions, shaming, cajoling, begging, bribing, threatening, praising - all of these and many other tricks of the trade are notoriously unreliable."

(Sidorkin as cited in Smyth & Fasoli, 2007, p. 276).

Relational theory:
students come to school because of the relationships they form with their friends and with teachers
all about building and strengthening these relationships
building respect and trust into everything you do
There are many theories as to how to tackle disengagement.

There is strong agreement that the solution to disengagement lies in the redefinition of the learning experience along personalised or student centred lines.

(Centre for Applied Educational Research, 2002; Kannapel & Clements, 2005)
Strong teacher student relationships and perceived teacher support
High expectations and student aspirations
Parental involvement
Relevance of subjects - why do I have to do this?
Engaging content
Monitoring attendance
Cooperative learning

(Balfanz & Byrnes, 2006; Bland, Carrington & Brady, 2009; Cole, 2006; Deed, 2011; Kannapel & Clements, 2005; Kendall & Kinder, 2005; McInerney, 2009; Sodha & Guglielmi, 2009)
Plain old good pedagogy
Students make an identity-based, risk-reward assessment when they decide which opportunities to accept or reject.

Learning environment may be dissonant with parts of a student's identity causing them to disengage (not cool to answer questions in class)

Students have an emotional reaction to learning

New learning challenges status quo - can trigger flight or fight response

Flight = not turning up or not being "present"

Fight = disruptive behaviour or questioning the activity

Need to have explicit conversations with students about the "why" of learning to reduce perceived risk and offer choice of activities - ownership and control
(Dean & Jolly, 2012)
Self Regulation Theory
Motivation Theory
Assumption that disengaged students are motivationally ready and that stopping behaviours will make students amenable to learning

Increasing "social control" only increases disengagement - need to address the underlying issues, in particular, low motivation

Over-reliance on extrinsic rewards or reinforcements can decrease intrinsic motivation

To increase intrinsic motivation consider: curiosity, striving for competence, push towards self-determination and establishing and maintaining relationships

Dialogue with students - two way process- need to understand their personal motives, capabilities, attitudes, interests and concerns, as well as help them set valued and appropriate goals and provide them with increased choice

Increases intrinsic motivation by increasing feelings of competence, self-determination and connectedness

Conveys that you value their perspective and believe they should play a meaningful role in making decisions about their learning

(Center for Mental Health in Schools, 2008; Jang, Reeve, Deci, 2010; Reeve, 2009)
Motivating Style
Teachers' motivating styles affect student engagement - continuum between highly controlling and highly autonomy supportive.

Beginning teachers usually more controlling, but to increase intrinsic motivation and engagement, need to be more autonomy supportive

Autonomy supportive - identify learning needs, interests and preferences and create classroom opportunities for students to have their internal motives guide their learning

Contrast with highly controlling where teacher requires strict adherence to structured agenda - offers extrinsic incentives and uses pressuring language to gain compliance

(Center for Mental Health in Schools, 2008; Jang, Reeve, Deci, 2010; Reeve, 2009)
Nurture inner motivational resources - need to ascertain what those resources are and then find ways to involve, nurture and develop those during instruction (based around competence, choice, interests, challenge, relatedness).

Provide explanatory rationales - not everything can be exciting.

Rely on non-controlling and informational language - information rich, non-controlling, encouraging.

Display patience to allow time for self-paced learning - scaffold, support, encourage, but give time and don't do it for them.

Acknowledge and accept expressions of negative affect - giving student's voice, demonstrating understanding of their perspective but not relinquishing all control.

(Center for Mental Health in Schools, 2008; Reeve, 2009; Reeve et al., 2004)
Deed, C. (2011). Accessing Students’ Reasons for Disengagement. The International Journal on School Disaffection.

Dunleavy, J. & Milton, P. (2009). What did you do in school today? Exploring the concept of Student Engagement and its implications for Teaching and Learning in Canada. Toronto: Canadian Education Association. Retrieved from http://www.cea-ace.ca/publication/what-did-you-do-school-today-exploring-concept-student-engagement-and-its-implications-t

Fredricks, J., Blumenfeld, P., & Paris, A. (2004). School engagement: Potential of the concept, state of the evidence. Review of Educational Research, 74, 59-109.

Groff, J., Howells, C. & Cranmer, S. (2010). The impact of console games in the classroom: Evidence from schools in Scotland. Bristol: Futurelab.

Jang, H., Reeve, J. & Deci, E. (2010). Engaging Students in Learning Activities: It Is Not Autonomy Support or Structure but Autonomy Support and Structure. Journal of Educational Psychology. 102(3).

Kannapel, P. J., & Clements, S. K. (2005). Inside the black box of high-performing high-poverty schools: A report from the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence. Lexington, KY: Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence. Retrieved from: http://www.prichardcommittee.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Inside-the-Black-Box.pdf

Kendall, S. & Kinder, K. (2005). Reclaiming Those Disengaged from Education and Learning: a European Perspective. Slough: NFER.

Kirriemuir, J. & McFarlane, A. E. (2004). Literature review in games and learning. Bristol: Futurelab.

Klopfer, E., Osterweil, S., Groff, J. & Haas, J. (2009). The Instructional Power of Digital Games, Social Networking and Simulations and How Teachers Can Leverage Them. Massachusetts: MIT

KPMG (2009). Re-engaging our kids. A framework for education provision to children and young people at risk of disengaging or disengaged from school. Melb, VIC: Department of Education Retrieved from: http://www.eduweb.vic.gov.au/edulibrary/public/stuman/wellbeing/Re-engaging_Our_Kids_KPMG_Apr2010.pdf

Games can be used to engage students:

build on interests, skills, knowledge and current culture - 94% aged 5-15 play regularly
overcomes the "digital disconnect" between home use and school use
increases engagement through fantasy, challenge and curiosity
develops a range of skills including strategic thinking, analysis, planning, communication, negotiation, group decisions, data handling
gamers have enhanced visual perception, ability to process info quickly, rapid determination of relevance of info, processing non-linear and parallel information
make failure fun

(Brand, 2012; Groff, Howells & Cranmer, 2010; Kirriemuir & McFarlane, 2004; Klopfer, Osterweil, Groff & Haas, 2009)


not just "chocolate covered broccoli"
need to be well planned and integrated into curriculum
non-gamers need structure and peer support (and may need alternate activity)
can't be too hard, complicated or uninteresting
make sure parents are informed

(Groff, Howells & Cranmer, 2010; Wilson, 2009)

Some results show that on average students achievement can increase by 20% with well implemented games (Marzano, 2010)

Balfanz, R. & Byrnes, V. (2006). Closing the Mathematics Achievement Gap in High-Poverty Middle Schools: Enablers and Constraints [Electronic version]. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk (JESPAR), 11(2), 143-159. Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com.ezproxy.usq.edu.au/doi/abs/10.1207/s15327671espr1102_2

Balfanz, R., Herzog, L. & Maciver, D. (2007). Preventing Student Disengagement and Keeping Students on the Graduation Path in Urban Middle-Grades Schools: Early Identification and Effective Interventions [Electronic version]. Educational Psychologist, 42(4), 191-273. Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com.ezproxy.usq.edu.au/toc/hedp20/42/4

Barry, K., & King, L. (1998). Teacher as researcher. In Beginning teaching and beyond (3rd ed., pp. 653-661). Wentworth Falls, NSW: Social Science Press

Bland, D. C., Carrington, S. B., & Brady, K. (2009) Young people, imagination and re-engagement in the middle years. Improving Schools. 12(3), pp. 237-248.

Brand, J. (2012). Digital Australia 12. Gold Coast: Bond University.

Centre for Applied Educational Research. (2002). Middle Years Research and Development (MYRAD) Project Executive Summary FebruaryDecember 2001. A Report to the Learning & Teaching Innovation Division, Department of Education & Training. Melbourne: The University of Melbourne

Center for Mental Health in Schools. (2008). Enhancing classroom approaches for addressing barriers to learning: Classroom-focused enabling. Los Angeles, CA: Author.

Cole, P. (2006). Reforming Year 9: Propositions for School Policy and Practice (Occasional Paper # 96). Melbourne: Centre for Strategic Education

Cooke, E. & Barnes, T. (n.d.) On the path to success: Promoting engagement in learning at Key Stage 3. Retrieved from: http://www.rip.org.uk/engagement/resources/on_the_path_to_success.pdf

Dean, K. & Jolly, J. (2012). Student identity, disengagement, and learning. Academy of Management Learning & Education. 11(2). Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.5465/amle.2009.0081

Educators identified disengaged behaviours as the most difficult to manage, especially avoiding doing schoolwork.
(Sullivan, Johnson, Conway, Owens & Taddeo, 2012)
Why is this a social justice issue?
Prime concerns:

Standard One - Know students and how they learn
Differentiate teaching to meet students' specific learning needs

Standard Two - Know the content and how to teach it
Teaching strategies, content selection, use of ICT

Standard Three - Plan for and implement effective teaching & learning
Planning, structure, resource selection, classroom communication, parental involvement

Standard Four - Create and maintain supportive and safe learning environments
Participation, managing activities, challenging behaviour

Education plays a crucial role in social inclusion because it is the principal
passport to opportunity (Raffo, 2009)
Why are we so keen to raise standards in our schools? Because the quickest route to the
workless class is to fail your English and maths class. In today’s world, the more you
learn, the more you earn. (Blair, as cited in Raffo 2009, p.66)
May have to overcome substantial negative attitudes
May not reach all students
Some students do not like games
Need to be less controlling
Will have mentor support but mainly relies on me
Time frame - needs whole term
Well grounded in theory (this time!)
Increased engagement - measurable through observations and through quality of work produced
Increased positive relationships
No additional physical or financial resources needed
Mentor/HOD support
Chose strategies that are easy to implement and work primarily on building relationships, providing choice, increasing value/relevance, aimed at increasing feelings of competence, self-determination and connectedness
Action Research Cycle
Did it help - YES!

I strongly believe in reflective practice to evaluate and inform my teaching.

The ARC provides more structure for larger issues.

First iteration - identified problem and implemented a strategy - left out the theory bit. Problem not solved. Learned from ARC that research is required!

This will be essentially the second iteration but with a sound theoretical basis.
(Barry & King, 1998; Churchill et al., 2011 ; Dempsey & Arthur-Kelly, 2007)
Warning signs for disengagement have been identified
Attend school 80% or less during sixth grade.
Fail maths in sixth grade.
Fail English in sixth grade.
Receive an unsatisfactory final behaviour mark in any subject in sixth grade.

(Balfanz, Herzog & Maciver, 2007)
Good teachers want to do their best for all students, reflecting society's commitment to equity, fairness and justice but dealing with disengaged students is not easy.

(Centre for medical health in schools, 2008)

Intervention is essential
One of the significant findings of this research is that the academic and behavioural problems that are displayed by many students at the start of the middle years do not self-correct.

Therefore intervention is absolutely essential for the future success of these students.
Social Identity Theory
Key element in engaging middle years students is in promoting their capacity to self-regulate their learning

Self-regulated learning is the use of strategies to achieve academic growth and well-being goals

To improve self-regulation and therefore engagement, students need to be taught the value and relevance of what they are learning

Also need to explicitly teach goal setting, self-monitoring and evaluation skills

Reinforce that effort, not innate intelligence, is related to results achieved
(Sullivan et al., 2009; Tadich et al., 2007)
When teachers focus on supporting autonomous motives (interests, needs, preferences, goals) to guide learning, engagement is supported through interesting and relevant learning activities, optimal challenges, and meaningful learning goals

When teachers also provide high structure by communicating clear expectations, explicit directions and guidance, engagement is further supported by keeping students on task, managing behavior, and avoiding chaos during transitions
(Reeve & Jang, 2006; Reeve et al., 2004)

Student engagement is highest when teachers show high leadership (lead, organise, set tasks, structure the classroom situation) and high understanding (active listening, empathise, demonstrate understanding, accept apologies, settle differences, be patient, be open).

Also teaching at central moments in the lesson is crucial to predicting students’ subsequent classroom engagement.

(Jang, Reeve & Deci, 2010)
Autonomy Support
Why I chose disengagement
I taught a class where 1/3 were disengaged totally, 1/3 were great and 1/3 swung either way depending on the day
Without benefit of ARC, mistakenly assumed that the use of a game would motivate students
Student perception - choc covered broccoli
Not enough pre-game preparation
Not enough integration with curriculum and explicit teaching
AND I have to teach this again next year so I need a plan!
First week
Using some of the concepts from motivation theory:
Get to know you activities
Learning style questionnaire
Academic motivation scale questionnaire
Rationale for subject
Concept of choice within the class
NO content teaching
Class rules and consequences
From second week
Start each lesson with clear rationale - how it relates to unit as a whole, why it's important
Give clear, explicit directions from the front of the class
TRY to be more autonomy supportive and less controlling
Let students give voice to negative affect
Choices, choices, choices
Offer choice in assessments - not done very often in high school
Offer some choice in activities
Hold individual conferences with each student at least twice per term
Review goals and progress
Discuss barriers to learning and negotiate solutions
Insert interests into curriculum where possible
Most parents are either not involved at secondary level or notified when something is wrong
Start positive dialogue via email about what we are doing and why
Positive text messages home
Make positive deposits so gain support when making negative withdrawals
Still use games for learning
BUT ensure they are integrated with curriculum
Students must know exactly what they are required to do and what the learning objectives are
More structure, less control
Opposition from some students
Potential opposition from parents
School wide behaviour management system generally calls for more controlling style
Lack of experience means more likely to revert to threats and control if things get out of hand
Engage students in different style of learning
Really get to know students
Build a positive relationship with parents
Learn more about gamification
Less stress - hopefully!
Potential expansion to other classes in my faculty
Lamb, S. & Mason, K. (2008). How young people are faring ’08. Melbourne, VIC: The Federation for Young Australians. Retrieved from: http://www.fya.org.au/downloads/FYA_HYPAFReport_ONLINE_68pp.pdf

Marzano, R. J. (2010). The art and science of teaching / Using games to enhance student achievement. Educational Leadership. 67(5).

Marzano, R., & Marzano, J. S. (2003). The key to classroom management. Educational Leadership, 61(1), 6-13. Retrieved from: http://web.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.usq.edu.au/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=487b0d8b-8fd8-43fb-a6e7-94a359bf3dab%40sessionmgr13&vid=4&hid=19

McInerney, P. (2009) Toward a critical pedagogy of engagement for alienated youth: insights from Freire and school‐based research. Critical Studies in Education. 50:1, DOI: 10.1080/17508480802526637

Morris, M. & Pullen, C. (2007). Disengagement and Re-engagement of Young People in Learning at Key Stage 3. Totnes: Research in Practice. Retrieved from: http://www.tandfonline.com.ezproxy.usq.edu.au/loi/rere20?open=49&repitition=0#vol_49

Raffo, C. (2009) Interrogating poverty, social exclusion and New Labour's programme of priority educational policies in England. Critical Studies in Education. 50 (1) DOI: 10.1080/17508480802526660
Reeve, J. (2009). Why Teachers Adopt a Controlling Motivating Style Toward Students and How They Can Become More Autonomy Supportive. Educational Psychologist. 44(3).

Reeve, J., Jang, H., Carrell, D., Jeon, S. & Barch, J. (2004). Enhancing students’ engagement by increasing teachers’ autonomy support. Motivation and Emotion. 28(2).

Smyth, J. & Fasoli, L. (2007). Climbing over the rocks in the road to student engagement and learning in a challenging high school in Australia. Educational Research. 49 (3).

Sodha, S. & Guglielmi, S. (2009). A stitch in time: tackling educational disengagement interim report. London. Available from http://www.demos.co.uk/files/Demos_stitch_in_time_report_C.pdf.

Sullivan, P., Mornane, A., Prain, V., Campbell, C., Deed, C., Drane, S., Faulkner, M., McDonough, A. & Smith, C. (2009). Junior Secondary Students' Perceptions of Influences on Their Engagement with Schooling. Australian Journal of Education 53: 176. DOI: 10.1177/000494410905300206

Sullivan, A., Johnson, B., Conway, R., Owens, L. & Taddeo, C. (2012). Punish Them or Engage Them. Behaviour at School Study: Technical Report 1. Adelaide, SA: University of South Australia. Retrieved from: http://www.bass.edu.au/

Tadich, B., Deed, C,. Campell, C. & Prain, V. (2007). Student engagement in the middle years: A year 8 case study. Issues In Educational Research. 17.

Willms, J., Friesen, S. & Milton, P. (2009). What did you do in school today? Toronto, ON: Canadian Education Association. Retrieved from: http://www.ccl-cca.ca/pdfs/otherreports/WDYDIST_National_Report_EN.pdf

Wilson, L. (2009). Best practices for using games & simulations in the classroom. Guidelines for K-12 educators. London: SIIA.
Combining high autonomy support with high structure
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