How kids feel about school affects how they learn. Research shows that motivation (pdf) and mindset matter hugely when it comes to kids’ performance on tests—an admittedly narrow measure of learning, but one that is quantifiable.
So it should be alarming that way too many kids lose interest in school as they get older. One Gallup poll asked 5th- and 11th-grade students in 3,000 schools whether they agreed with the following statements:
- At this school, I get to do what I do best every day.
- My teachers make me feel my schoolwork is important.
- I feel safe in this school.
- I have fun at school.
- I have a best friend at school.
- In the last seven days, someone has told me I have done good work at school.
- In the last seven days, I have learned something interesting at school.
- The adults at my school care about me.
- I have at least one teacher who makes me excited about the future.
The results showed that compared to perky fifth graders, high-school juniors were pretty unengaged.
How can we increase student engagement, particularly in teenage years? The academic journal Nature recently examined the adolescent brain, and one article offered ideas: adolescent classes should have more experiential learning—that is, field trips and hands-on activities, as opposed to listening to a teacher lecture. And since teens are primed for social affirmation, they would benefit from more peer work and well-structured collaboration.