Reaching Reluctant and Resistant Students

Wondering how to reach students who seem checked out? Two recent blog posts provide suggestions and guidance for how instructors can reach students who might be reluctant or resistant.

As The Reluctant Learner argues, students who are reluctant learners can appear unmotivated. However, often that lack of engagement comes not from low interest, but fear of failure and learned helplessness. Instructors can reach those students and inspire participation by incorporating self-reflection and scaffolding learning into smaller chunks – both can build learners’ self-confidence and aptitude. The author also suggests instructors convey their passion and enthusiasm for course topics, set high but attainable expectations, and create a collaborative environment.

Strategies for Preventing Student Resistance provides suggestions for how to reach students who might resist teaching strategies. To do so, instructors can find ways to increase “instructor immediacy” by reducing the “social distance between themselves and students.” Social distance can be reduced via eye contact, learning students’ names, and otherwise closely interacting with students. Research suggests that fostering this immediacy reduces student resistance and increases motivation and learning. And, as explaining the value of learning activities can persuade students to more fully embrace them (i.e., to not only complete activities, but to want to complete them), instructors might also consider delineating rationale and explanation for their teaching strategies.