How the School Environment Influences Reluctant Learners

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Issues with reluctant learners are not always dependent on just the attributes or characteristics of the child.  This is because children don’t learn in isolation, but instead, children learn within the classroom, managed by the teacher.

Protheroe (2004) explains the reasons why a student is a reluctant learner are often complex, and teachers and school counselors must keep in mind not only the student but also the interaction between the student and the school/classroom environment. The school and classroom environment can include multiple classrooms with other students, teachers, school counselors, and other educational staff. Students spend hours and hours within their perspective classrooms, day in and day out, so it only makes sense to acknowledge that there are a variety of classroom factors that can influence student learning.

Elaborating upon the idea that teachers will be faced with many challenges in order to maximize their students’ learning potential, let’s take a look at some of the types of classroom factors that can affect student learning, with their interactions at school and in their classrooms.

Positive Physical Space:  When students have limited space to learn (i.e. seats are close together), it may make it difficult for students to concentrate.  And sadly, the reality is that many classroom teachers must deal with overcrowded classrooms or small physical spaces where they are expected to teach. This becomes more evident as students become physically larger, such as in upper elementary and middle school classrooms.  Overcrowded classrooms can limit student mobility as well and minimize small group activities that teachers can facilitate.

Classroom Management Issues:  Every student has dealt with the dreaded day filled with the ‘substitute’ teacher where very little instruction occurred due to very basic classroom management issues. Children especially, thrive off of consistency of well-established routines, schedules, and positive classroom structures and thrive best in well-managed classrooms.

Insufficient Teacher Preparation:  On the same note of classroom management problems, if teachers are unprepared for lessons, it can impact student engagement, motivation and certainly, can lead to a feeding ground for the reluctance of participation from students. Although not ideal, the fact of the matter is that it does happen from time to time and we must put faith into the school systems that this will only occur minimally or in rare situations.

Teacher and Other Adult Personalities:  It may seem strange to be explicit about this, but students have unique personalities that may not always mesh with their classroom teachers or with other educational professionals. Every adult educational professional is human and will have unique, individual personalities as well. Some adults are soft-spoken, others may be outspoken, brash or very upbeat. For instance, perhaps a child is very shy, quiet, and a slow thinker who might not fare well in a fast-paced teacher.

Limited Student Choice & Student ‘Voice’:  Providing student choice is a very common way to help motivate students and to support student personal freedom and promote student buy-in. Next, read the following blog that summarizes how student choice leads to developing their own student voice.  Essentially, it makes a difference for students to produce quality work that matters to them and to give students frequent opportunities to express their passions, their ideas, skills, and other revelations.

Because the issue of reluctant learners is such a significant factor for student success in life, it must also be explored in-depth. Teach & Kids Learn (TKL) has developed several comprehensive online courses for teachers which have been found to be very beneficial for teachers in addressing this issue in their classroom. Here are a few which you may want to consider: