Articles Hub |
Return to Main page

reluctant learner

Student Success

How to Engage a Reluctant Learner

Reaching learners who need support—even if they are reluctant to pursue it—is one of the most rewarding aspects of being an educator. It’s also one of the most challenging.

Our experts shared their most effective strategies for engaging reluctant learners. Here are their 5 top tips:

1. Get buy-in

One of the best ways to engage reluctant learners is to involve them in the decision-making process. For instance, ask them to weigh in on an upcoming assignment or help administer part of a lesson. When learners know that their contribution matters in the classroom (especially when that classroom is virtual), they are more likely to engage in the educational process.

2. Focus on what each student does well

Empower students to use their own prior work as a model for future assignments. This technique enables students to build using their own scaffolding. After all, lessons in what to do can be far more instructive than lessons in what not to do. Ultimately, focusing on what students do well does more than foster good feelings; it also equips students to succeed in the future. 

3. Relate lessons to learners' interests

From the physics of superhero feats to the psychology of literary characters, your curriculum will come to life if it offers real-world applications. The more that students can relate what they’re learning to what they care about, the more they are likely to engage in school.

4. Present new concepts in bite-size pieces

Rather than delivering a full-length lecture on a new topic, focus on presenting chunks of new information, with short interactive activities in between. This gives students a chance to speak up about difficulties as they arise—rather than waiting until those challenges feel insurmountable.

5. Be there to support your students

This is the most obvious—and the most difficult—way to engage reluctant learners: Let them know they can access help whenever and wherever they need it. It’s an ambitious goal, and all the more so when students are scattered across a city, state, country, or even the globe. Scaling your student support through is a great way to ensure that everyone in your community has access to empowering, encouraging support, 24/7. When your students can access support they need, the burden on educators is alleviated too.