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Four ways to boost engagement and motivation in Key Stage 4 learners

All schools have groups of students that do not fulfil their potential – the cause is often disengagement with the education system. Mike Randall, ASDAN’s Head of Curriculum Development, who has 20 years’ experience as a teacher, provides his top tips on motivating young people.

Disengagement is often rooted in a belief that school and education is not relevant or useful in a young person’s future. There may be a preconceived idea of what the future holds in terms of employment and lifestyle; or an unformed work and personal identity brought about through lack of experiences and an insular community; or it may be as simple as not possessing the basic personal skills students need to engage with learning.

Disengagement can also be the result of social, emotional and mental health needs (SEMH). Young people with SEMH often struggle to progress in class without additional strategies and interventions.

Whatever the reason, one thing is sure – boosting motivation is key because motivated students achieve more. Many young people are lucky enough to be driven, enjoy good mental wellbeing, and see the value of their education. But what can we do to motivate the hard-to-reach students and those with SEMH that exist in all parts of the education system in the UK?

Drawing on feedback from ASDAN centres and my own experience as a teacher, the advice below has been shown to make a difference.

  1. Help learners build belief in themselves

We have a great opportunity as educators to support learners to build ‘self-efficacy’ or belief in themselves – many learners are disengaged because they have experienced repeated failure and believe they are unlikely to succeed whatever their efforts. You can build belief by providing young people with opportunities to experience success. This involves organising tasks or challenges that are accessible for all learners. Successfully completing an activity is one of the first stages of engaging young people and showing them that they can achieve and that they already possess skills and knowledge.

  1. Give students choice over their learning

It’s important to provide choice, also known as personalised learning. This is something that is at the very core of what we do at ASDAN. Our centres tell us time and time again that giving learners choice is highly effective in encouraging them to take ownership of their work and meeting their learning needs. It can be daunting to give learners choice – you don’t know which direction they will go in – but if you are brave and go with it the rewards are significant for you and the learners.

  1. Provide short-term goals

Try setting short-term goals within the tasks and give informative feedback to help achieve those goals. Demotivated young people rarely have the ‘stickability’ for long-term achievement, so break it down into baby steps of success. This theme is central to our pedagogy at ASDAN. For example, our Certificate of Personal Effectiveness (CoPE) qualification includes challenges of varying levels of time commitment and our Short Courses provide accreditation and certification for as little as 10 hours of work.
4. Link learning to the real world

Help students relate their learning to their future ­– what they are doing now needs to have relevance to their lives beyond school. Highly motivated students are prepared to engage in learning on the basis of obtaining exam results that improve their general long-term prospects of employment. Exams don’t motivate everyone though. Less engaged young people benefit from having a clearer line of sight to a particular occupation or life ambition they want to fulfill.

Boosting learners’ personal effectiveness

We believe it’s important that in every centre there is a curriculum pathway available that provides the above elements. Our portfolio-assessed CoPE qualification provides one solution for an alternative pathway. Furthermore, when coupled with other ASDAN programmes, such as Vocational Tasters and Short Courses, CoPE produces a highly personalised and relevant curriculum.

Download our new leaflet Pathways to progression through ASDAN courses to find out how your learners can achieve the CoPE qualification through a vocational, academic or personal development pathway.

CoPE, part of the ASDAN originals course category, is used by many schools to re-engage young people and help learners of all abilities develop core skills and boost their personal effectiveness. Hockerill Anglo-European College in Hertfordshire says ‘highly academic students’ have also greatly benefited from undertaking the qualification and have found it challenging and rewarding.

The impact of CoPE

Read our case studies below to see how CoPE is boosting the engagement and motivation of learners.

CoPE is core part of the curriculum at Outstanding school

CoPE complements academic learning at Gloucestershire school