Ghost Learners: using student voice to gain insider perspectives on passive disengagement

Year: 2019

Author: Ross, Karlie

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

A student’s disengagement or disconnection from school has implications for their academic outcomes, school and classroom inclusion, and emotional wellbeing. There has been much research on student disengagement more broadly, however, much of the attention has been directed at the more visible signs of disengagement: classroom disruption, truancy, and school dropout. Passive disengagement is more subtle and remains under-researched, leading to a gap in the research literature and a problem in practice. In this thesis, I investigated the concept of passive disengagement in the classroom through a conceptual framework that integrated psychological and ecological understandings of student disengagement. The research used a new visual ethnography approach, the School Engagement Photo Technique (SEPT), to investigate the experiences of disengagement with middle years students. Participating students suggest that their disengagement with classroom learning is fluid and is affected by student-teacher relationships, pedagogy, and their own value of time. Student insights also indicated that their mood, including feelings of being tired, were contributors to levels of (dis)engagement. Finally, the findings also informed the development of some Middle Years Pedagogical Guidelines designed to support the research site’s future decisions around curriculum, pedagogy and assessment during this phase of schooling.