Engaging students

Different ways of learning

There are three primary learning styles that are the best way an individual can learn. These are visual (information is presented through pictures, videos, books, palm cards, PowerPoints, etc), auditory (information is presented orally, through lectures, audio clips (ted talks, etc) etc) and kinaesthetic (learning through hands on activities). According to our survey, the majority of students learn through kinaesthetic methods, but schools and teachers should do more to cater to individual learning styles, as trying to learn through a method different from one’s own is extremely challenging.

Match the learning experience to the student by providing a variety of learning resources. Teachers need to provide for all kinds of students, just like when you are younger you are taught information through sounds, visuals and hands-on activities. It is effective and gives everyone the opportunity to learn in the classroom.

Collaborative learning. Working in groups to create an end product while making goals and effectively communicating is a useful skill that everyone needs throughout their life. This also helps with conflict resolution and life skills. By having these experiences with other people you broaden your horizons, get to know different people and understand different cultures.

“More relevance to todays society”

Student response to our survey

Make learning meaningful by showing the connection of what they are learning to the real world or show how it is a useful skill in some way by using examples.

E.g., Reading helps with empathy because you see life through other perspectives and furthers your comprehension skills.

By using examples like the above backed up with evidence you can also make it meaningful. By showing students how knowing this information can help them, can help others and make a difference or just appeal to their interests even it will motivate them to learn.

“I like hands on learning because it helps me to better understand the concept of topics”

Student response to our survey

 Hands on learning allows students to get involved and be creative, nurturing their imagination. It gives variance in classes, preventing boredom in students. It also gives more hands-on students an opportunity to do something they enjoy.

It is fun and engaging

Provides real experiences

Encourages interaction with nature

Exploration using all five senses

Engages multiple areas of the brain

Builds on fine motor skills

What our survey said about how we learn!

Our group conducted a survey of teachers, and a separate one of students. In the questions specifically relating specifically to teaching methods and environments and engagement of students as a result. In these questions, the students said they preferred learning in outdoor environments. According to our survey, the majority of students learn through kinaesthetic methods, but schools and teachers should do more to cater to individual learning styles, as trying to learn through a method different from one’s own is extremely challenging. Teachers thought that students were more engaged in formative test situations, note taking or a variation between teacher and student centred learning, none of which qualify as kinaesthetic activities directly, which the majority of students said they preferred and worked better doing. The students also said they preferred learning in outdoor environments, and when teachers were asked about the possibility of teaching outdoors, the responses were half and half, with most of the teachers listing the negatives (primarily weather issues) of the prosect, even though students said they enjoyed it and learned more when working outdoors. The message that was received through this specific set of data indicates that teachers need to better understand how their students learn the best and perhaps cater more towards their needs instead of focussing on the negatives, as their students would be better off for it

“I love being in nature and outside of our closed in rooms”

student response to survey

By having regular movement breaks you can increase productivity. Let students walk around during class and get up to stretch to engage the mind and body. Going for walks has been proven to increase oxygen intake and increase mental capabilities along with wellbeing. So just by having those breaks students feel freer in school and actively engaged. It is also important for the student’s physical wellbeing and mental wellbeing. This can be achieved by stand up desks, a variety of chairs and other devices that encourage movement.

Teachers

Teachers need support, especially straight out of university as it is new teachers who most commonly experience unproductive and disengaged kids. This can be done by providing mentor teachers for those new to teaching, giving weekly updates and communicating heavily with parents and students to ensure that everyone is getting what they need.

Teachers should also have ample time to collaborate with other teachers to achieve what they need to and learn from other teachers on what they do in class and how they are teaching for the best outcome. This also makes teachers accountable for how they teach and provides responsibility and time to think about what they will do for their students.

Managing funding into the right areas for what the students in each school or classroom needs is also important. So, if students are struggling to use their facilities, that is where funding should go, if they lack experience with technology then invest in that area and so forth.

40% of students are unproductive each year in Australia

WAYS TO GET KIDS INVOLVED

Provide feedback throughout the year for students to work on their goals and find out what they need to do to improve. So, teacher and student meetings not just parent meetings. This also makes students accountable for what they do in class and what they are learning. This also makes it easier for students to ask a teacher questions if they need help since the teacher goes to them and it’s less confronting.

Letting teenagers contribute in a positive way can have a massive effect on not only them as an individual but the community and encourages them to make that positive impact on others. When teachers use a student’s feedback to make a change it makes them feel listened to and cared for. It is as simple as going that extra step by having those conversations with students where the student is engaged and leading the conversation.

Positive Ways to Improve Interactions with Students

Creating good teacher student bonds through caring for students and their emotional and social needs, being positive, increasing one on one time, being fair and having trust in your students.

This can be done by simply treating students like human beings and allowing them to have drink bottles in class, go to the bathroom freely, leave class when they need to and having opportunities for them to talk honestly about what they want and need.

Students don’t like it when teachers raise their voice or humiliate them in front of their peers, it makes them feel worse, alone, unmotivated and scared. They will be reluctant to make contributions in class or ask for help. By simply having a nice tone and volume you can create a more positive and engaging atmosphere for your classroom.

Having positive posters and decorations is a good step forward but it is how you reinforce them that matters. Having the school psychologist and teachers keep up with students and what they are doing so you know when something is wrong. Then asking the student if they are okay and being encouraging is the next step in ensuring they feel safe, listened too and supported by their school community.  

“The best way to make children good is to make them happy.”

– Oscar Wilde

Homework and study

Should parents help their kids with homework?

Learning at home (homework) is considered to be harder for the majority of students as being at home provides multiple distractions and obstacles for them to have to combat. This includes having plans after school, dealing with family members or not having the proper resources at home.  They also may struggle with concepts or time restrictions, causing stress and other unhealthy emotions which make homework a very unpleasant experience.

Study time and after-school homework for Australian students is rapidly increasing according to a new international study by the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).

Australian students of fifteen years of age are found to spend on average six hours a week of homework, that is around about a full day of school. With an increase of 0.3 hours per week from the 2003 international study.

“less homework or more meaningful homework”

– Student response

Australia and Austria were the only countries to report a statistically significant increase in the amount of time students spend doing homework. This is not good enough; we are treating our students harshly and a change needs to be made. Either increase the quality of the homework, the level of how easy it is to complete the work and how engaging it is or decrease the amount of homework. There is no point if students are mindlessly completing tasks and not having fun. Instead students should enjoy education and the gift of learning.

“Homework is giving more exercise and practise to help students who need to improve. With homework there is no set time to submit, students can submit when they have completed the task. If there is no set time, students who want to improve will do the homework.”

– Teacher response to survey
How To Encourage Kids To Do Homework | GradePower Learning

Homework should be less theoretical and more practical which would make students more engaged. There should be kinds of homework as well which relate to more hands-on skills that will help with life later on. This includes cooking, cleaning, learning how to use a dish washer, learning how to use a drier etc. This would help students become more helpful at home while also providing them with useful experiences. There should also be more advice on how to study in a fun way or homework given that is letting the kids be creative and free. Like make a song, skit, poster, game or music video which involves multiple skills and is less dull.

The choice of what homework you do should also be the students. Provide students with choices for which type of homework they wish to complete. This will enable them to become more engaged with homework as they have more choice on what they want to do. When trialled in classrooms it was found that this encouraged students to complete their work to a higher degree and since they were given more freedom the majority were highly motivated to complete their task.

“Teachers need to stop setting us so much homework and expecting us to finish it all when we have so many subjects in a week”

– Student response to survey

“Homework is giving more exercise and practise to help students who need to improve. With homework there is no set time to submit, students can submit when they have completed the task. If there is no set time, students who want to improve will do the homework.”

– Teacher response to survey

There are positives to homework such as allowing more work to be completed, putting less stress on students and teachers to get so much done in one lesson, lets kids have control over how they learn and allows for creative license. This is of course, when homework is done right. It has been proven that by OECD that in advantaged countries, socio-economically advantaged students spend 1.6hrs longer doing homework than a disadvantaged student. So, homework can have a positive influence, if done well and with purpose.

“It might be useful to finish off some work, do some reading, or consolidate understanding. Never just for the sake of it. Only given if needed.”

– Teacher response

Student Wellbeing

To have a successful education and schooling system you need a successful and well run mental health and counselling program. This would make schools more appealing and function better as students would be able to feel safe and accepted in their environment.

A study performed by the Australian Council of Educational Research (ACER) concluded through their investigation that wellbeing, belonging and engagement programs caused an academic improvement equivalent to four months of additional learning. So it isn’t a waste of resources or time to be considering not only the course outline and learning materials but also the wellbeing of students and teachers so that they may have a more positive and motivated outlook on work. As well as improving grades, the participating students also commented on their improved mental states. Overall improving wellbeing and the effectiveness of school. 

“better pastoral care program, more mental health support, better discipline for bullies etc”

– answer from student survey

We as a group of young boys and schools in school provide the perspective that schools would benefit from allowing students to create and run a range of clubs and groups that would contribute to the school community, give students a place to go to find friends, allow for many groups of different people with different cultures and interests to meet and widen the understanding of students. Along with giving kids freedom with their education and more choice in what they do at school. This would allow more students to feel like they belong and are involved in a community, and therefore creating better overall wellbeing.

Uniforms

“i hate the uniform, the summer uniform is the only dress i own, its so uncomfortable i feel exposed constantly, what we really want is pants. why is it so bad we have pants?”

“whats the downside of giving people a more comfortable option?”

– responses from student survey

Uniforms add to the general anxiety around school and take away from students wellbeing. It also rake away from students freedom if you don’t have multiple options for students who feel uncomfortable with certain options. In our survey we found most feel limited by their uniform, uncomfortable and feel insecure wearing it.

Subjects

School curriculums in Australia are primarily decided by the government, and schools get to decide how they are taught. And most of the time, students are forced to learn these subjects with no choice, and therefore contribute to a severe disinterest in learning, causing marks to be lower in comparison to when subjects are chosen. Marks in chosen subjects are about 13% higher than those of compulsory subjects (see the attached graph).

As the government determines the curriculum, schools are left with little opportunity to teach students far more necessary life skills, such as how to use a bank account, write a resume, deal with cyberbullying, household repairs, emotional control and comprehension, first aid, etcetera. The only compulsory pre-existing subject in school that teaches necessary life skills is economics, and even that is only a small part of a singular subject. According to Professor Scott Falhman of Carnegie Mellon University, we only actively use about a third of what we learn. Of course this amount varies, but generally speaking this means that the vast majority of what we learn in school is impractical. If students were taught more about what we need in the real world, and less about topics that have no real world practical application.