Educational battlefields in America: The tug-of-war over students' engagement with instruction

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97 Scopus citations


This study shows that gaps between opportunities to learn and students' appropriation of those opportunities are instructionally produced and socially distributed via mechanisms that affect engagement and lead to alienation from instruction - the dissociation between students' physical presence in academic classes and their thoughts while in class. Using an innovative approach to measuring engagement and different types of alienation from instruction, the study found that students are alienated from instruction almost half the time and that when they are alienated, they tend to be preoccupied with external issues. Instructional characteristics and external contexts exhibit a tug-of-war over students' engagement and alienation from instruction. In relation to teacher-centered lectures, progressive instructional strategies and methods are better able to insulate students from alienating environments, whereas boring and nonrelevant instruction allows external preoccupations to swamp students' attention, especially among Hispanic and African American students and those who are at risk of alienation from instruction.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)247-269
Number of pages23
JournalSociology of Education
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2000


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