Fight, flight, or freeze: causes and prevention of disengagement and dropout in K-12 education





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What causes some students to become disengaged during their K-12 education, and how can this be prevented? An extensive literature review revealed numerous causes of disengagement as well as several factors that foster engagement and academic achievement. Allington, Beers, Csikszentmihalyi, Dweck, Gallagher, Jensen, Kohn, Marzano, Sousa, and Sylwester were some of the many researchers cited. Sixteen very diverse students participated in this study - six were high school graduates and ten were dropouts. Some were still school age while others were in their thirties. Focus groups and individual interviews were used to obtain firsthand analyses regarding the causes and prevention of disengagement. The author concluded that safety, relevancy, optimal challenges, self-efficacy, and autonomy are the most compelling factors affecting engagement and academic achievement. Last but not least, the author stresses that students must choose to learn, and some may choose to learn later in life.

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