Session 345: Engaging disengaged pupils

Thursday 16th March 2017


Disengaged pupils: You spend loads of time lesson planning, ensuring that differentiation and assessment opportunities are carefully positioned. Yet, mid-way through the lesson, you see: eyes glazing over; students talking about the football match last night; students messing with their phones! How rude! Why don’t they listen, and why are they so disengaged in this lesson?

Having a group of disengaged pupils in front of you is one of the most dispiriting aspects of teaching, but what can teachers do to minimise the disruption that can ensue? Following the UKEdChat Twitter poll, this discussion session explored the best pedagogical options to engage all students in all lessons, to support their learning, achieving positive outcomes for all.

In particular, the session asked:

  1. How can disengagement be identified in the classroom?
  2. How can teachers challenge pupils who seem to be disengaged in the classroom?
  3. At what stage can teachers investigate the root issues around disengagement?
  4. How do you make classroom content relevant in order to keep all pupils engaged?
  5. How can teachers positively deal with disengaged pupils when they threaten to become disruptive?
  6. What are your best strategies to keep pupils engaged … even after lunch time?

Infographic Summary:

Click image below to download free PDF version, to share and discuss with colleagues.



The discussion began by talking about how to spot disengaged learners. Many people commented that at one level this is fairly easy. There are pupils who are chronically disengaged and are a very noticeable entity within the classroom. However, there are times when pupils become disengaged for short periods within a lesson with may go unnoticed and they can miss key information and learn as a result. Naturally, there are a lot of shades of grey in between and it is vital to understand why this disengagement happens.

Many UKEdChatters commented that the pace of the lesson was important to keep learners engaged. Others mentioned that pair and group work is important, while others disagreed and said that group work was an opportunity to go off task. It was also commented that ‘lecture’ lessons where the teacher is doing most of the talking are unlikely to maintain the engagement of the ‘audience’.

Understanding the root of disengagement is the first step to regaining engagement. There is a multitude of factors involved, and home life, peer interaction, peer pressure and insecurity were all mentioned for chronic disengagement. Chatters talked about the emotional baggage that pupils bring with them as a comment cause of short-term disengagement issues. Lastly, a fascinating discussion about whether the pupils were right to be disengaged in some classrooms. If the teaching is dull and seemingly not relevant to your situation, would you be engaged in that lesson? A teacher who is always honing their skills needs to reflect on their own practice to see how they can improve engagement. On this point, many chatters spoke about the subject matter and curriculum needs to be engaging for pupils – Many people said that currently it isn’t and is too exam focused.

The discussion moved on to ask advice about who to deal with pupils who move from disengaged to disruptive. Once again, participants spoke about knowing root causes and dealing with those, rather than the consequences. However, many UKEdChatters commented that once disruption had occurred the teacher needs to follow the behaviour management policy of the school. See the archive for all the advice offered in this part of the discussion.

Lastly, participants discussed how to keep learners engaged. One chatter commented that teachers must adapt the timetable to the pupils’ circadian rhythm and account for lulls and peaks in performance. A number of participants spoke about using technology to engage learners with digital tools. However, many UKEdChatters commented that the best way to engage learners is to be engaging, make them part of the learning process, and make it relevant.

Thank you for engaging in UKEdChat.

Archive -> Session 345 Disengaged pupils

You need to or Register to bookmark/favorite this content.

About UKEdChat Editorial 3187 Articles
The Editorial Account of UKEdChat, managed by editor-in-chief Colin Hill, with support from Martin Burrett from the UKEd Magazine. Pedagogy, Resources, Community.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.