Study challenges “one great teacher” narrative of education

A new study from the University of Cambridge has revealed that a student’s interest and willingness to learn, known as school engagement, can change significantly between the ages of eight and 15. The research, which analyzed data from more than 3,600 young people in Australia, suggests that while a positive relationship with a teacher at an early age may help children feel more engaged with school, it does not necessarily have a long-term impact.

The study found that student engagement levels varied, especially during the transition from primary to secondary education. Ioannis Katsantonis, a doctoral researcher at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge, led the study and noted that “even if a teacher works incredibly hard to help a child in primary school, that does not necessarily mean that five or 10 years later, you are going to find a student who is settled, happy and committed to learning.”

The researchers identified three main groups of students based on their engagement levels: mostly disengaged, moderately engaged, and highly engaged. Surprisingly, many students moved between these groups as they transitioned from primary to secondary school, indicating that engagement is prone to change.

The study also found that a strong bond with a teacher at age eight or nine had little to no impact on student engagement at ages 10/11 and 12/13. However, a sense of belonging within the school community at age 12/13 was strongly linked to higher engagement at the same age. This suggests that when students feel respected and valued by both their teachers and peers, they are more likely to show greater positivity and commitment to learning.

Furthermore, the study provided evidence that students who feel more engaged at the start of secondary school experience long-term academic benefits, performing better in standardized numeracy, writing, and spelling tests two years later.

Katsantonis emphasized the importance of maintaining a consistently positive and inclusive school environment, stating that “one of the most important things to grasp about young people’s school engagement is that continuity is not guaranteed. Teachers matter significantly to children, but they do so at every stage. Continual and consistent attention to the school environment is vital.”

#StudentEngagement #SchoolBelonging #TeacherStudentRelationships #EducationResearch


Substack subscription form sign up
The material in this press release comes from the originating research organization. Content may be edited for style and length. Want more? Sign up for our daily email.