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Everyone is different. Some people are more clinical or scientific in the way they think, while others have more of an artistic flair. Some are more socially oriented, preferring to do things as part of a group, and others are more individual, preferring to do things alone.

Some people are easily distracted, and others more easily able to focus. These and other characteristics may to some extent change as a child grows older, or in some cases, they may not. A person’s ability and desire to focus on the teacher is not always something they can control, no matter what age they are. In any group of students, there will always be some who can focus and learn with greater ease than others.

The effective teacher needs to determine such abilities within their students and adjust their interaction with the students accordingly.

Classroom teachers have various “strategies” which can be utilised to regain student attention when it starts to drift, but for some students, it may require more than “strategies” to overcome such problems.  Most people have an attention span of around 5 minutes. By changing their tone of voice, volume, visual image, facial expression or gesture, a teacher can often reawaken the senses of their students for a further 5 minutes or possibly longer. 

Unless they are using a video conferencing facility these strategies are not easily applied to distance education teachers. As most of what the student learns will not be through lectures or face to face but via written notes or technology, it is important that the teacher learns to be alert and pick up signs of lack of interest.

1. This can be achieved by knowing how each student normally presents their work i.e.
• Were lessons one and two of a very high standard but lesson three poor? This could mean that the student is:
• Losing interest
• Felt that you did not encourage them give them due praise for previous good work
• Is having difficulties either with personal issues, lack of time, inability to find information or finds the lesson boring.

2. What sort of questions is the student asking i.e. I don’t understand this question, could you give me more information? Is not really a sign of lack of motivation or waning interest whereas: “I decided not to answer this question because I couldn’t find any information” or “I am not interested in this area of the course, so decided not to answer these questions” should ring a warning bell for the teacher to respond. Very short and inadequate answers to questions should also be noted as they may be a sign of lack of interest and commitment, or a lack of understanding as to the course requirements.

Classroom teachers must remain alert to the dynamics of their group and sense any feeling of dissonance between students. They must tune in to the vibes of the group, for it is the student’s behaviour which indicates how they are feeling and whether they are really interested in what is happening.

This normally is not an issue for the DE teacher. However it is important for DE teachers to quickly respond to signs of discontent. A student may feel that he/she was not given enough information, was given an unfair grade, did not have their prior questions answered adequately or did not get a full assessment of their work. Quick responses show the student that you care about their concerns and are willing to take on board their complaints or study problems. Slow and unresolved responses tell the student that you are not interested. The student could begin to feel isolated, may lose interest in their course and bitter towards distance education.


• Lack of Stimulation (e.g. some students may be more advanced than others, and the content of a lesson may already be familiar to them; or the lesson may be moving too slowly to retain the students’ interest). This can be applied to both classroom and DE students

• The cultural mix of the group may mean that some students whose native language is English may understand the concepts being taught quicker that other students who may struggle with grasping the simplest things. This may cause boredom to creep into the lesson unless the teacher paces the content accordingly and makes some available time to spend with students who are finding it difficult to understand some of the content.

      The DE student can also come from a broad range of cultural backgrounds. Many DE schools have
      international students as well as domestic students with a large cultural diversity. It is important to
      identify students that may present with language difficulties early on i.e. through the application
      process, as this enables teachers to guide and make allowances for these students. Students should
      also be guided into courses that will suit their specific language skills.

• Excessively Complex (eg. If information is beyond a student’s capacity to understand: possibly due to a lack of foundation knowledge). This may also cause boredom or a lack of interest creating a divide in the learning process. This applies to both classroom and DE students and can be overcome through prescribing pre-requisite courses that must be completed before acceptance into a more complex course

• Lack of Interest (eg. The subject matter is unimportant or irrelevant to the student). Students can tune out depending on the nature of the content or if they feel the content is irrelevant to their goals or expectations.

• Physical or Mental Distraction (eg. There may be stress or conflict between members of a class or a student and teacher or the student may have interests outside the classroom that are of greater significance and interest). This may cause students to lose focus on what is being taught, explained or discussed. This also applies to DE students. Distractions at home can also lead to a lack of focus and often results in sporadic student’s submissions and can also lead to a lack of focus. Sometimes simple time management skills can overcome study.

• Communication Breakdown (eg. Teacher misunderstanding student; or student misunderstanding teacher). DE students do from time to time have issues or conflict with their teachers, usually this is through a lack of understanding or misinterpretation of teacher’s comments clear communication can prevent teacher/student issues. 

• Lack of Motivation (eg. Teacher’s motivation to teach or student’s motivation to learn is diminished). Students may questions why they chose this particular module or course and whether this will be fulfilled by continuing or completing the course work.


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