T3. How do teachers inspire and engage their students?

Why this is important

It is important that teachers inspire and engage their students because:

  • school lessons should be enjoyable and interesting to students and capture their imaginations; teachers play a huge role in inspiring students.
  • students who enjoy a subject are likely to try to achieve the best results possible, and continue with that subject through education and into employment.


In the 2012 Wellcome Trust Monitor survey13, a sample of 14 to 19 year olds representative of the UK population were questioned on their attitudes to science at school.

  • 82% said school science lessons were very or fairly interesting.
  • 58% found science lessons more interesting than maths, and 58% found them more interesting than English.

These results14 show that, in general, young people enjoy science.

In a 2011 TIMSS report15 of year 5 and year 9 pupils in England, 81% of year 5 students said they liked or somewhat liked learning mathematics and 58% of year 9 students said they liked or somewhat liked learning mathematics.

In the 2012 Monitor survey, young people were asked what encourages or discourages them to learn science. We found that the most important factor was their teacher.

The top answers for what encouraged them were:

  • Having a good teacher (58%)
  • Being interested in the subject (44%)
  • The chance to learn about things relevant to real life (40%)
  • The chance to carry out experiments (37%)

Some of the top answers for what discouraged them were:

  • Having a bad teacher (43%)
  • Finding the subject too difficult (31%)
  • Finding the subject boring (24%)

For a full list of questions and results, see the Wellcome Trust Monitor Survey.

Ideas for improvement

  • It’s important for governors to get an understanding of the learning environment in their school. Learning walks, where governors visit a number of classrooms for a short time to see a range of lessons, and student questionnaires can be good ways to do this, which can then be fed back to the governing body and senior leadership team.
  • There are often differences in the uptake of sciences and maths between female and male students. See C4 for more information and ideas to encourage equal uptake of STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths)  subjects.
  • If students are not enjoying science very much, increasing the amount or quality of their practical work might help (see question T5 and Facilities).
  • A 2013 report from NFER17 listed some ways to try to improve students’ engagement in STEM subjects, including:
    • Make links with real-life and cutting edge technology
    • Use practical contexts for teaching and open-ended activities to foster creativity (see T4)
    • Offer clubs, STEM days and enrichment activities (see E1)
    • Embed links between STEM subjects in the curriculum
    • Provide consistent, high-quality professional development for teachers (see T2)
    • Demonstrate the full range of STEM careers (see C8)
    • Find role models who challenge stereotypes.
Last updated June 2014

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