Guest post by Zoe Price
Given the recent tensions from both students and teachers across the world, it is clear that there is a real problem with engagement and satisfaction in the education sector. Since the pandemic, learning has looked a lot different. Millions of young people around the globe were denied a typical education experience and had to find a way to adapt to home learning. Online tutoring is now much more popular! For many, teachers included, this was an extremely difficult barrier, especially when the world re-opened, and these children and adults were expected to return to a school setting and return things to ‘normal’. Things changed, but the classroom and educational policy seemingly didn’t catch up. So, how can engagement be boosted in the education sector, especially with online tutoring?
Engagement for Educators: Why It’s Important
In the next five years over 40% of educators plan to leave the profession. This data is alarming. Without educators, there can be no education. So, how can this be changed? While many will need to adapt to online tutoring, can more be done? There are the big questions like increases in pay and fairer hours, less stress and so on. There are also the more subtle nuances like enhanced strategies around classroom engagement and bigger support networks for teachers within schools. Teachers that are engaged are more likely to lead their students to engagement and therefore educational success, whatever shape that takes for the individual learner. It is important because without teachers being enthusiastic and promoting positive educational experience, young people will simply follow suit.
Prosocial Environments in Schools: How Can It Be Done?
One of the biggest concerns for educators are the increasingly evolving behavioural patterns from young people in schools. There are an increased number of concerns amongst younger pupils in the primary education settings and all the way through to college and beyond too. Not all young people will enjoy online tutoring. No age is excluded, and behaviours have definitely got worse. Whatever the reason behind this (and there are many), there has to be a clear path forward for teachers. Simple discipline is not enough, nor should it be the default preference.
There could, however, be more of a focus on encouraging prosocial environments for both adults and students. This might look like community projects or better narratives, but the core principle guiding it all should be about supporting engagement in a way that is healthy for everyone and allowing them to explore what optimal, prosocial interaction looks like in a safe space. Nurture and kindness cultures are a big driving force behind success in this area, as are exploring empathy as a primary study area.
Adopting Holistic and Therapeutic Approaches to Discipline
For modern educators, there is a real theme of student to teacher negative interactions, even going as far to suggest some of these behaviours can be categorised as abusive. While traditional detentions and isolation punishment routes are yielding ineffective, no one seems to be shifting the narrative. Holistic and therapeutic approaches are paving the way in parenting, so why not teaching too? Of course, the relationship is different, but the interaction is fairly similar. Teachers are responsible for looking after students during the day. They are mentors, educators, and role models. There is no reason to think they cannot, therefore, engage with the same principles of supportive parenting to a lesser extent in the classroom to promote positive interaction and deescalate the more negative ones.
Student Engagement: A Growing Concern?
Recent trends in student protests are representative enough of the unrest within the walls of schools all over the country. Of course, social media apps like TikTok have played a major part in this by encouraging students to revolt against their educators. But these feelings are never unfounded, and students do deserve to have a voice. Some schools even saw students being addressed by police as a result of their actions, but this is sure to re-invigorate the reasons behind the process and hinder engagement further. How can educators listen without going down traditional disciplinary routes? Online tutoring should cover this.
Asking the Students to be an Active Participant
One path to explore is giving the students more of a voice and a heightened role in their educational journey. Education is for them, after all. It allows them the opportunity to figure out what they love and where they want to grow as they mature into adulthood. School is about so much more than just the timetabled lessons. There is a big pastoral gap here too. With the obvious decline in mental health amongst teens, and children in primary settings too, more should be done to create an enhanced, holistic educational experience for all ages.
Doing Things Directly: Poll Interactions
There are lots of options to discover in this context. One of these that seems highly viable are live polls. Live polling is a way to ask your audience (in this case the students) what they want and how they want it. If you are engaged in online tutoring, it will be easy to send live polls digitally. It can be anonymous, interactive, collaborative or independent; it really doesn’t matter as long as the answers are found and collated. Sometimes live audience polling is highly effective as a way to reduce the stigma and anxiety about this type of Q&A. Students need to have a clear reason why they are being asked the question, whatever that question ends up being. Educators can use this data to the advantage of everyone.
This might look like adapting lesson plans, introducing new strategies as a response to the corroborated informatics and everything beyond this too. So, for both business purposes (aka employee/teacher management) and educational purposes (the students and young people) these methods are a great resource for your business or classroom and yield positive, actionable data in both sectors. The next time you are setting up an online tutoring session, consider incorporating live polling to help answer some key questions you may have.
Increasing Mental Health Support in Schools
One topic that keeps repeating in current cycles is mental health. Teens in particular are struggling but is it not exclusive to any age of child. There are so many reasons why mental health may play a factor in decreased engagement, the biggest one being that a lack of support makes people spiral. There must be better provisions in school to support students authentically with their mental health journeys. This could look like improved narratives around the different types of mental health, specific and better funded counselling for students who really need it, and exploration leading to improved support plans in the place of punishment for those struggling to be present in school because of adverse conditions. If they are struggling with online tutoring, consider working with additional support staff.
Clearer Policies on Bullying
The last key focus area that students have always needed support with is bullying. Bullying is not a new thing and while some of it is driven by human instinct, it is not a pleasant experience. It can be a primary reason behind an inability to engage leading to a withdrawal from studying. Schools everywhere are able to improve their policies on bullying and take a more active approach inside the building to combatting, preventing and reacting to all forms of negative interactions. The biggest barrier here, of course, is that the majority of bullying and derogatory interactions are now occurring online. There is no tangible way to monitor every online interaction, so the approach has to be a team effort with parents and caregivers too.
There are lots of methods for engaging both staff and students in education. There are clear gaps that need addressing on both sides and while some problems are solvable, others will take a bigger, longer approach. Whatever happens, it is clear that these issues need addressing head on, and soon.