Youth disengagement from education

Dr Carol Mckinstry1, Ms Nerida  Hyett1

1La Trobe University, Bendigo, Australia

Aim: This project aims to explore and develop a deeper understanding of the complex factors contributing to youth disengagement in a secondary education setting, identifying strategies to support and enable young people to either maintain engagement or re-engage within the educational environment. Positive student enablement and engagement can provide a range of benefits to individuals including improved physical and mental health, social inclusion, improved relationships with peers, teaching staff and families as well as providing a greater overall life satisfaction and trajectory.

Method: An extensive review of the literature identified eight key themes including factors contributing to youth disengagement, consequences of disengagement, school environment, relevant curriculum, clear goals and pathways, supportive relationships, non-teacher supports, connection between school, community and family, and sense of belonging and connectedness to school. Data collection will include in-depth interviews with students identified as at risk of dis-engagement and a survey of teaching staff to explore factors contributing to dis-engagement and strategies currently used to engage or re-engage.

Results: Student engagement can be improved through:

  1. Goal setting: Integrating individualized goal setting into the student’s curriculum to improve student confidence, motivation, interest and engagement
  2. Identifying disengaged students: Teaching staff to increase their understanding of disengagement to ensure early identification of disengaged students and implementation of individualized engagement strategies
  3. Adopting a strengths based approach: Teaching staff focus on the student’s strengths, skills and accomplishments to develop a positive school environment

Significance of the findings to allied health: Taking a health prevention approach, allied health such as occupational therapists and speech pathologists can improve youth mental health, potential health literacy and general health through working with schools to improve educational achievement and employment opportunities particularly for at risk rural youth.