How do I deal with apathetic students?
- Try to build a relationship with these students. Take an interest in them to find out what is at the bottom of the perceived apathy. Learning students' names and using names in class can help students understand that you are interested in them and in their success in your course. Consider emailing a student who seems uninterested or unresponsive and let him/her know that you would like to help in any way that you can. Oftentimes their apparent apathy has nothing to do with the course. There may be personal matters that are dominating their attention. Some students are going through a period of depression which disconnects them from their studies. Showing a little concern can be very helpful.
- Measure the students' progress early and regularly, so they have a clear idea about where they stand academically. This may involve quizzes, short response papers, or some kind of weekly assignment which gives you some indication of their level of understanding. Your "apathetic" students may also be the students who are struggling with the class. They could also be students for whom the class is inappropriate. In either case, it would be good to find this out early, so you can arrange an appointment with the student to talk about how things are going and to possibly recommend dropping the class. Take some initiative here. Just saying— "Drop by my office if you need to see me"—as a general comment to the whole group may not be enough to get them in there (especially freshmen).
- Promote good will. Let students know when they have done well. This can be an occasional group email that says something like—“In looking over your homework last night I was pleased to see that so many of you are now understanding the connection between _____________ and ____________. If you are still confused about this, look over the examples I have included in this message.” It can also be an individual email that says—“ I really appreciated your comments in class today. They led to a very productive discussion.”