I want to engage with students that seem uninterested in the material.


  • I regularly ask students to memorize a particular passage and be prepared to present it. In one class, the students had not even gotten the books, much less completed the assignment.  I never recovered from that in that class.
  • I taught a senior seminar in which the authors we read are bombastic and very opinionated. Most of the time, I have to try to get students to get past the tone of the writing to engage with the material.  One year, however, the students were not angry – they were simply apathetic.  This made it much harder to teach – what was the match I did not light?  What was the fire I did not get going?
  • I feel like my students are taking my classes because they think it will help them get a job, not because they care about the material. [in response to this, another faculty member responded that “I hear that my students are not majoring in my discipline because they do not think it will help them get a job, even though they are interested in the material.”]


  • Students sometimes check out if they feel like their particular interests are not reflected in the course material.  You can make space for students to link the content to their interests. This could be through an independent research project, group presentations, or having a daily presentation that links the course to a news item.
  • Students know what apathy looks like.  Name your concern and invite discussion – “class was pretty flat last week.  What’s going on? Is it the readings, your workload, or something else?”
  • The professor is the leader, but students can be reminded that they share responsibility for the classroom environment.  Few students will meet their professors’ passion for or interest in the material, but they should be committed to making the most of their time at Midd.
  • A lack of response to provocative material might indicate apathy, but it could also result from uncertainty or fear of social sanction.  Grab students outside of class for a quick, private discussion of what’s going on.