Engaging students: creating classrooms that improve learning reports that as many as 40 per cent of school students are unproductive in a given year.
Unproductive students are on average one to two years behind their peers, and their disengagement also damages their classmates and teachers.
The minor disruptions such as students talking back or simply switching off and avoiding work, are the most stressful for teachers. Creating a better learning environment in the classroom will help.
The report calls for new approaches by governments, universities, school principals and teachers.
The government and non-government systems should target more support to schools in poorer parts of Australia.
Universities need to change their courses to give trainee teachers more supervised time in classrooms, so they are better prepared.
Teachers must be given better information about what strategies work best in the classroom, and they need more time to learn how to use those techniques in the heat of the moment.
As many as 40 per cent of teachers say they have never had the chance to watch colleagues and learn from how they engage students in class. And only about one-third of the practices promoted in textbooks and training courses for new teachers have been shown to work well.
“Student disengagement is a hidden problem in schools,” says Grattan Institute School Education Program Director Pete Goss.
“When a student switches off, there is the risk of a downward spiral. If the teacher responds badly, more students can become distracted and the momentum of the class can be lost. We owe it to future generations of Australian students to make these reforms now.”