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    How school visits can help reach disengaged learners

    I've just read an interesting article in the TES Magazine ('Engaging pupils who are turned off by school', Alex Quigley, TES, 24 November 2017) which looks at some of the best ways to reach pupils who feel disengaged from learning - and I think some of the points made are relevant to the way learning is delivered by school visit providers.

    The article refers to research carried out by Edward L. Deci ('Engaging students in learning activities: It is not autonomy support or structure but autonomy support and structure', Journal of Educational Psychology) on the role of the teacher. He found that an 'engaging teacher' was not necessarily someone who was fun and 'busy' but rather a teacher who provided 'safe, purposeful classroom environments' and who provide 'clear expectations and instructions, strong guidance during lessons and constructive feedback'. Quigley goes on to suggest that relationships with pupils are best developed through school trips, sports days and assemblies and it's in these 'nooks and crannies' of the school year that engagement is fostered.

    I think this is important for school visit providers to know and understand. Schools are taking pupils out on school trips less and less frequently, so it is the responsibility of school visit providers to make sure that, if a school chooses to visit their establishment, those children who are usually disengaged are really absorbed by the learning that is on offer for that day. 

    So what does this mean for school visit providers? Firstly, be confident and clear when talking to pupils and make sure they know exactly what is expected of them. Give them learning objectives and an outline of the session with rough timings. Most importantly, make sure that all your young visitors are given opportunities to participate in purposeful and relevant sessions and give them precise feedback. Praise their contributions and achievements, their knowledge and their learning, and give them constructive ideas about how they can take their learning further. Look for those pupils who are holding back and try harder to draw them in, getting them to help out if possible and really showing that you value their contributions. Create a safe and supportive atmosphere, using open questions to generate discussion - and thank the children for their ideas. If a pupil shows an interest in, say, one artefact from an exhibition, find a moment to feed that knowledge by offering ideas for further study, or directing him or her to other resources. 

    Who knows, you may even spark a real interest or passion in a young learner, and that could make all the difference in the world to their attitudes to school and learning. That's engaging teaching!

    Want to know more about open and closed questions? Take a look at our training module here.

    About Kuloko

    Kuloko is the network for organisations, businesses and individuals who offer local learning opportunities to schools. We support providers to collaborate, network, share good practice and keep up to date to ensure high quality learning experiences for local children.