Psychological Pressure by Middle-School Teachers May Backfire

A new study may help teachers identify why some teens withdraw in the classroom.

Researchers at the University of Kent in the U.K. discovered that psychological pressure from teachers can contribute to disengagement among teenage students under the age 14.

Dr. Stephen Earl from the University’s School of Sport and Exercise Sciences said the behavior may be both active and passive.

Active disengagement behaviors include talking and making noise, with daydreaming in class among the more passive disengagement behaviors.

Researchers also discovered that although most teachers may pressure pupils with the well-meaning intention of engaging them, it may have the opposite effect and actually promote disengagement.

Common teaching strategies such as using threats of punishment or controlling language — for example, do this because I say so — without providing any explanation, may be counterproductive.

Other findings from the study, which was conducted across three secondary schools in Kent, include:

  • pupils who were made to feel incapable of being successful reported less energy in class and were rated as passively disengaged by teacher;
  • pupils who felt forced to do activities in class were reported to disengage either actively or passively.

The study appears in the journal Learning and Instruction.

Source: University of Kent