Facilitating re-engagement in learning: A disengaged student perspective.

Laura Nicholson, Dave Putwain

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

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Past research into student engagement has focused on behavioural engagement in students attending mainstream school. Students who are disengaged from learning, however, are at increased risk of a range of negative outcomes (Pirrie et al., 2011). Re-engaging these students presents a significant challenge as conventional routes are often inappropriate (Cook, 2005). Identifying the factors that facilitate re-engagement in disengaged students is therefore crucial. The current research investigated the school-related factors that disengaged students believed enabled and supported their re-engagement in learning. In order to fully capture the concept of student engagement, a student perspective was adopted (Appleton et al., 2006; Reschly & Christenson, 2012). Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 35 students (aged 14-16 years) attending an alternative free school. These students were disengaged with learning on arrival at the school. Students answered questions about their engagement and academic progress at the free school. Interpretative phenomenological analysis was used to identify, describe and interpret the themes within the data. Sixteen higher-order themes representing factors that students believed facilitated their re-engagement in learning were organised into four areas: classroom, relational, school and personal. In general, students were found to be engaged in learning at the free school. Key facilitators of engagement, from a student perspective, were strong, positive relationships with staff, and small class sizes, particularly low staff-student ratios. Several new factors, idiosyncratic to disengaged students, were also identified. Results are discussed in relation to past research and future directions. References Appleton, J. J., Christenson, S. L., Kim, D. & Reschly, A. L. (2006). Measuring cognitive and psychological engagement: Validation of the Student Engagement Instrument. Journal of School Psychology, 44, 427-445. Cook, L. (2005). Schools without walls: Reconnecting the disconnected at 14. Support for Learning, 20(2), 90-95. Pirrie, A., Macleod, G., Cullen, M. A., & McCluskey, G. (2011). What happens to pupils permanently excluded from special schools and pupil referral units in England? British Educational Research Journal, 37(3), 519-538. Reschly, A. L., & Christenson, S. L. (2012). Jingle, jangle, and conceptual haziness: Evolution and future directions of the engagement construct. In S. L. Christenson, A. L. Reschly & C. Wylie (Eds.) Handbook of Research on Student Engagement (pp. 3-19). New York, NY: Springer.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2014
EventBritish Psychological Society (BPS) Education Section Conference - Milton Keynes, United Kingdom
Duration: 7 Nov 20149 Nov 2014


ConferenceBritish Psychological Society (BPS) Education Section Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
CityMilton Keynes


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