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Teenagers can become disruptive if teachers use psychological pressure

April 26, 2017

A study by researchers at the University of Kent is expected to help teachers identify specific reasons for different types of pupil withdrawal in the classroom.

The study, which was led by Stephen Earl from the University's School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, discovered that psychological pressure from teachers can contribute to disengagement amongst teenage pupils under 14. Active disengagement behaviours include talking and making noise, with daydreaming in class amongst the more passive disengagement behaviours.

It also discovered that although most teachers may pressurise pupils with the well-meaning intention of engaging them, it may have the opposite effect and actually promote disengagement. Such pressure includes threats of punishment or controlling language -- e.g. 'do this because I say so' -- without providing any explanation.

Other findings from the study, which was conducted across three secondary schools in Kent, include:
  • pupils who were made to feel incapable of being successful reported less energy in class and were rated as passively disengaged by teachers
  • pupils who felt forced to do activities in class were reported to disengage either actively or passively


The research is published in the journal Learning and Instruction as 'Autonomy and competence frustration in young adolescent classrooms: Different associations with active and passive disengagement' (Stephen R. Earl, Carla Meijen and Louis Passfield, University of Kent; Ian M. Taylor, Loughborough University).

For further information or interview requests contact Sandy Fleming at the University of Kent Press Office.

Tel: 01227 823581/01634 888879
Email: S.Fleming@kent.ac.uk

News releases can also be found at http://www.kent.ac.uk/newsUniversity of Kent on Twitter: http://twitter.com/UniKent

Note to editors

Established in 1965, the University of Kent -- the UK's European university -- now has almost 20,000 students across campuses or study centres at Canterbury, Medway, Tonbridge, Brussels, Paris, Athens and Rome.

It has been ranked: 23rd in the Guardian University Guide 2017; 23rd in the Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2017; and 23rd in the Complete University Guide 2017.

In the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2015-16, Kent is in the top 10% of the world's leading universities for international outlook and 66th in its table of the most international universities in the world. The THE also ranked the University as 20th in its 'Table of Tables' 2016.

Kent is ranked 17th in the UK for research intensity (REF 2014). It has world-leading research in all subjects and 97% of its research is deemed by the REF to be of international quality.

In the National Student Survey 2016, Kent achieved the fourth highest score for overall student satisfaction, out of all publicly funded, multi-faculty universities. Along with the universities of East Anglia and Essex, Kent is a member of the Eastern Arc Research Consortium.

The University is worth £0.7 billion to the economy of the south east and supports more than 7,800 jobs in the region. Student off-campus spend contributes £293.3m and 2,532 full-time-equivalent jobs to those totals.

In 2014, Kent received its second Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education.
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University of Kent

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