There are many factors that are early identifiers that a student is at risk of disengaging from learning, the first being poor engagement within class. If a student suddenly stops engaging by not answering questions, completing tasks etc., it is highly likely they are disengaging from learning and every effort must be made to ensure assistance can be provided, as the opportunity is short before the student starts missing classes, which is a clear and obvious disengagement from learning.
Another early identifier is that assignments are not submitted on time or at all, it can be challenging to identify if this is caused by disengagement or external factors, especially with adult learners, but most students that become behind on their assignments will struggle to recover and most will require additional support to get them back on track. When an assignment is submitted that is poor quality but previous assignments have been good quality, it is a clear red flag showing the student has been less committed to this piece of work and further investigation is required as they are disengaging from the course.
Each of these factors are symptoms of disengagement but the cause is likely to be more complex and could have been having an impact for some time. The actual cause of the disengagement may be the choice of course; it may have not been the right course for them in the first place, although this will likely be exposed early in the academic year. The variety within lessons, after a prolonged period of time experiencing the same boring lesson material it is inevitable that students will disengage.
Relationships with parents, peers within the class and romance with others will have a significant impact on student engagement within class, in both positive and negative ways. I have experienced a student splitting with his long term girlfriend that had a seriously negative impact on the level of work he produced for several months; I have also experienced a student meeting his girlfriend having an even larger impact on the work he produced. I have experienced the positive aspects romantic relationships have had when a student who never submitted work on time, started submitting work early after meeting a girl studying for a master’s degree. The relationship students have with their parents can result in students (particularly those living with parents) arriving frustrated and angry, looking for an opportunity to vent after an argument with parents, there is also the positive side in which parents have made contact looking out for the best interests of their child, for example, I have experienced a parent that would make contact twice a year to ensure his child would still receive additional time during exams due to Dyslexia.
An extremely serious cause of disengagement is bullying, I experienced a student that was being verbally bullied off the premises and cyber-bullied online, this was after several weeks of the student not attending and making various excuses before he revealed he was being bullied.