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Psychological pressure from teachers 'can result in disruptive pupils'

03/05/2017 Joanna

Applying the wrong kind of pressure on teenage students can make them less engaged and more disruptive, according to new research.

A study from the University of Kent, which was conducted across three Kent secondary schools, examined specific reasons for different types of pupil withdrawal in the classroom, in order to help teachers identify which forms of encouragement are most likely to have a positive impact.

Published in the journal Learning and Instruction, the research indicated that psychological pressure from teachers can contribute to disengagement among teenage pupils under 14, even though this pressure is usually applied with the well-meaning intention of encouraging them to engage.

Threats of punishment or the use of controlling language - namely, telling students to follow orders without providing any explanation - can in fact have the opposite effect, leading to withdrawal from the learning experience that may manifest in different ways.

Active disengagement behaviours include talking and making noise, whereas daydreaming in class was highlighted as an example of a passive form of disengagement.

Specifically, the study indicated that pupils who were made to feel incapable of being successful reported having less energy in class and were rated as passively disengaged by their teachers. Meanwhile, those who felt forced to take part in class activities were also reported to frequently lose engagement, a sentiment that manifested in both active and passive ways.

The researchers concluded: "These distinct mechanisms may have implications for educators, identifying potential causes of different forms of pupil disengagement and the importance of avoiding psychological control in classrooms."

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