Academic disengagement scale

The Learning and Wellbeing Team

Most students will start feeling tired towards the end of any semester in school and even experience some loss of interest. That’s a common occurrence and not necessarily a bad thing — so long as you can push through and get everything that you need to get done. 

The Academic Disengagement Scale assesses four elements of academic disengagement – Loss of Interest, Lack of Drive, Disengagement, and Giving up. Some elements of disengagement, such as a dip in drive or interest, are not necessarily problem, if they pass or do not become so severe, that you cannot push through. However, others elements, such as disengagement and giving up, can adversely affect your grades and even put your studies in jeopardy if they become severe. 

There are many good reasons why you may be experiencing a feeling of being ‘out of gas’ — everything from too little sleep or a challenging program to a loss of interest or belief that you may never be able to accomplish what is being asked of you.  The first step is to find out where your feeling of disengagement is coming from and then develop a plan to tackle your loss of interest or drive and any feeling of disengagement or giving up. 


The screening quiz you are about to take is NOT designed to diagnose a clinical issue or to recommend any particular course of action but is designed to help you determine the nature of your challenges and difficulties. If you are at risk of droping out of school or giving up, you should consider talking to an academic or mental health counselor. 

What can i do about it. 

Academic disengagement can arise for a number of different reasons, which will require different strategies and responses.

What can I do about a loss of interest? 

Losing interest in what you are doing is not necessarily a serious concern if the loss of interest does not last, is associated with just some aspect of a course or comes at the end of a busy semester. If, however, your loss of interest starts to get in the way of studying or enjoying the course, there are a couple of things you might consider. Here are a few: 

  • Try to get to know other students in the course and study with others for tests, exams or even papers.  Studying with others can increase your motivation to keep going and give you something else to look forward to. 
  • Whenever possible, try to choose a topic for a paper or project that interests you. Ask the prof if you can modify a topic slightly to make it more interesting for you. 
  • If the loss of interest is long-standing and cannot be managed well enough to keep up with your obligations, you might consider changing or modifying your program of study.   

What can I do about a lack of drive?

A lack of loss of drive can arise for a number of reasons, that range from a loss of interest in what you are studying to poor sleep, high levels of stress or emerging mental health difficulties, including depression. There are a number of things you can try to deal with a loss of drive. Here are a few. 

  • Increase the amount that you sleep, exercise and eat well. Adequate amounts of sleep, regular exercise and a healthy diet can increase your drive, motivation and stamina for a variety of activities, including school. 
  • Try to reduce the number of things that are preoccupying, worrisome or stressful in your life, if at all possible. Stress and worry can deplete your motivation and drive for a variety of activities in your life, including school. 
  • If you experience a lasting lack of drive in a number of areas of your life, you should consider talking to a health professional about what may be affecting your loss of drive, which may be the results of both physical factors (e.g., poor diet) or mental factors (e.g., stress, mental health difficulties or illness).  

What can I do about a feeling of disengagement?

There are several signs of disengagement, which can include skipping class, putting off school work, and not caring about doing your very best.  These can both be the result of a loss of interest or a lack of drive and need to be addressed immediately, but most often, the result of just falling behind and not staying on top of all of your obligations.  Severe levels of disengagement (e.g., missing classes, not doing your best) can lead to decreased grades and, in extreme instances, failure. 

There are a number of things you can try to deal with feelings of disengagement. Here are a few. 

  • Strategies, such as storyboarding your week, using a to-do list, and backwards scheduling, can all help to get you re-engaged with your work and getting your work done. Very often, feelings of disengagement will decrease somewhat once you start to feel productive again. 
  • If these feelings persist, you may benefit from talking to an academic coach or counsellor, who can help you develop a better schedule to help you re-connect with what needs to get done. 
  • If the signs of disengagement (e.g.,  include skipping class, putting off school work, not caring about doing your very best) still persist, you may also consider talking to a mental health counsellor who can help you identify the causes of your disengagement and develop a plan that addresses both problematic behaviours (e.g., include skipping class, putting off school work, not caring about doing your very best) as well as any mental health difficulties that may be contributing to your feeling of disengagement.   

What can I do about the feeling of giving up?

The most concerning element of disengagement is when students start giving up. That’s when you have stopped trying, stopped going to class, and may even start to feel defeated and that there is no point in even trying anymore. If you give up or stop going to class, your risk of failing a course will increase. If this feeling of giving up spreads to a number of courses, you can quite easily lose the term. 

When you have reached this point, your best course of action is to (a) talk to an academic counsellor, (b) talk to a mental health or health professional, and (c) talk to your parents. When you reach this point, it may be very, very difficult to talk to anyone about how you are doing, especially if your grades have started to suffer. However, the way out of this situation starts with getting more people on your team. 

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