School Mental Health Project

Re-engaging Students in Classroom Learning

Student disengagement in schooling is a fundamental barrier to well-being. Thus, re-engaging students in classroom learning must be a fundamental focus for all who are concerned about learning, behavior, and emotional problems.

A cornerstone of mental health in schools and other enterprises for addressing barriers to learning must incorporate strategies for re-engaging and then maintaining the engagement of students in classroom learning. This means that all of us must appreciate and do something about helping teachers address these matters. It is absolutely essential to do so if the phrase "leave no child behind" is to have real meaning.

It is commonplace to find that, when a student is not engaged in the lessons at hand, the youngster may engage in activity that disrupts. Teachers and other staff try to cope. The emphasis is on classroom management. Currently, the stress is on practices designed to provide "positive behavior support." For the most part, however, the emphasis is on social control aimed directly at stopping disruptive behavior. An often stated assumption is that stopping the behavior will make the student amenable to teaching. In a few cases, this may be so. However, the assumption ignores all the work that has led to understanding psychological reactance. Moreover, it belies the reality that so many students continue to do poorly in terms of academic achievement and the fact that dropout rates continue to be staggering.

The argument sometimes is made that the above problems simply reflect the failure of the system to do a good job in implementing social control and other socialization practices. But, probably the more basic system failure is how little attention is directed at helping teachers engage and maintain the engagement of students in learning. And, when they encounter a student who has disengaged and is misbehaving, the need shouldn't be first and foremost on social control but on strategies that have the greatest likelihood of re-engaging the student in classroom learning.

It's About Motivation Especially Intrinsic Motivation

Want to know more?

Browse the lead article in the Winter 2002 Newsletter.

And, if you would like to try a training tutorial, go to:
Classroom Changes to Enhance and Re-engage Students in Learning

And, for even more, go to our continuing education modules on:
Enhancing Classroom Approaches for Addressing Barriers to Learning: Classroom-Focused Enabling

Finally, just so you know where to go in the future related to this topic,
take a look at the Quick Find on Classroom Focused Enabling and Motivation.

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School Mental Health Project-UCLA
Center for Mental Health in Schools
WebMaster: Perry Nelson (smhp@ucla.edu)