Solutions for Student Apathy

by Delroy Thompson, Ed.D.

In 2009, after nearly ten years teaching middle school Language Arts  and/or Reading, I began teaching 10th grade in high school. The change was a shock to my system. I was amazed at the seeming apathy among high school students. Mind you, I initially chose to teach Reading, which, in high school, is a required class for those students who failed Florida’s standardized test. Many students in reading classes lacked  motivation and are often not engaged in school business. How could I help these students to be successful? I decided to get more formal training. In 2011, I started a doctoral  program at Nova Southeastern University. My main focus was to discover ways to engage and motivate students. My reasoning was that more engaged students would realize the importance of learning.

Completing the degree took me almost five years. I did learn some key elements for engaging and motivating learners. In my thesis, I focused on the importance of lesson design. Just giving information to students was not effective teaching–telling readers that they should interact with the text was important but more so was the importance of giving students opportunities to actually interact with text.

From my study, I concluded that the design of the instructional event is immensely important for learning to occur. Two important theories I utilized in my study were Merrill’s First Principles of Instruction (2013) and Keller’s ARCS model of motivational design (2010). In order to design engaging, effective, and efficient courses, instructors have to design courses that get learners to be active participants in their learning. In the end, instructors are responsible for making their content interesting, learners are responsible for working to learn: additionally, instructors are responsible for  guiding the learning process. These elements are necessary to combat student apathy.