This document, published by UCLA, provides strategies for reaching the students who refuse to learn. It emphasizes positive relationship-building, creating a safe classroom environment, and the importance of student choice in giving students a sense of ownership in their own learning.
Fear of shame can lead students to willfully disengage from learning in the classroom as a means of self-preservation. If they don't try, they can't fail; they can't be embarrassed. This article presents three strategies for creating an environment that preserves students' dignity and encourages them to take the risk of engaging.
For adolescents, who are especially prone to insecurity and a need for peer acceptance, learning can be a risky endeavor. Failure can result in embarrassment and feelings of low self-worth. Sometimes, these fears can lead students to a flat-out refusal to learn. This article outlines how teachers and parents can help to make the learning environment feel safer so that students are more likely to take risks as they learn something new.
I first read this book when I was a graduate student working on my Master's in Education, and it has been highly influential for me. Considered the definitive work on the topic of "not learning," Kohl distinguishes between a failure to learn and a willful refusal to learn. He uses case studies to describe the process by which students actively choose not to learn as a form of self-preservation, stemming from a cultural mismatch with the teacher or school that threatens the students' identity.
Sometimes, a student's choice to disengage is spurred by the teacher or the classroom environment. The author of this article got her students to open up about why they disengage, and here she records the reasons they gave. It provides insight into the way school can make students feel and it gives teachers a starting point for making positive changes in the classroom to reach these students.