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 Article published in Avery Magazine online, 14 March 2016


Getting bored at school - Eliminating boredom and fostering engagement in our classrooms

by Rohan Feegrade on 13 February 2017

As each school year begins, we embark on a journey with an inevitable end, one glorious summer day in December. Question - How has this year's journey enriched my child and their learning?

Teachers, parents and academics will likely agree that true and rich learning can only occur when students are fully engaged within their learning environment. The more engaged a students is, the better the learning outcomes. But what happens to those students who become bored at school? Are they at risk of not maximising their potential? Yes! From a learning perspective, engagement and boredom are mutually exclusive terms - students will not be bored if they are engaged in their learning.

Being bored at school puts students at great risk. Boredom not only leads to poor academic results but can also lead to poor life choices. After recently speaking with a forum of school psychologists, the point was raised that most often, students who make poor decisions and choices, whether they be behavioural, anti-social or illegal, are either bored or dis-engaged within their learning environment.

For years, teachers have tried to create stimulating and engaging classrooms with mixed results. This highlights the point that it is the teacher who is responsible for, and able to, increase student engagement - it is a function of the teaching not the school.

The bottom line on how best to achieve this is simple. Its starts with a great teacher who is able to create a stimulating learning environment in which students have choices and can take control of their learning. This sounds simple, but the execution is more challenging than it seems. It requires a skilled and energetic educator who is willing to take risks, critique themselves, spend the time, and work hard building a program that is inclusive of all learners, while scaffolding each students' choices. Being empowered to make choices in relation to their learning will build a sense of ownership and foster better classroom engagement. The schools responsibility is to help teachers unlock their ability and allow time for them to build such programs. Allowing students more choice on how they are assessed is also a pathway worth exploring.

Choice is not the only factor leading towards better student engagement. Being able to relate what students are learning to their lives is crucial. Making learning more about the real world and less about textbooks, case studies, tests and exams, also leads towards higher levels of student engagement.

Some schools are making great progress and constantly striving to address the issue of boredom and disengagement. I have seen schools create senior school cafes complete with professional coffee machines and adult style study spaces to help engage multiple types of learners, while giving them choice on how, where and with whom they learn.

In relation to better student engagement, another thing schools can implement is the explicit teaching of study skills and how to help students understand their own learning style better. Schools should be explicitly teaching these skills as a subject for middle school and senior school students. Helping students create and use effective study planners, implement study routines and also have strategies to cope with distractions and stress, is crucial.

Preparing students for a 21st-century world should be a mantra in all schools. We can focus on this mantra and use it as a tool to lead towards better student engagement. Should we consider the teaching of how to safely, properly and effectively use social media and various associated platforms in their learning? Yes.

I often talk about learning being a life long journey, and we as humans learning to love this journey more each day. For young minds, engagement in their learning environment is the key to loving the journey.


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