One of our intended aims at here at Stratford upon Avon is to become one of the leading schools in the country. I felt if we were going to truly be a leading school it wasn’t enough to just demonstrate first class pedagogy – it was important that we were active creators of pedagogy and that we contributed to the wider world of education. In order to do that in September 2015 we launched the Stratford upon Avon research fellowship position. The idea being that staff identified an area of either individual pedagogy or a whole school area that could stand to be involved. Research fellows then conduct a piece of action research surrounding that topic: identifying the issue, using staff and student voice, conducting a literature review to identify existing practice, implementing changes in their classroom practice and measuring the impact of those changes.
Our first round had 3 research fellows;
Miss Rainsford identified the issue that within her dance lessons there were some students who needed further assistance and required her intervention. In student voice interviews Miss Rainsford identified that although some students felt they did need her extra intervention, there was an anxiety about being seen as needing the help and a worry that they were taking up too much of her time.
Following her research on the topic Miss Rainsford took the bold step of taking her small group of intervention students and training them in leadership skills in order for those students to lead small groups in the skill they needed developing in.
The results of this were excellent with the students requiring help receiving it in what they perceived to be a very positive manner – they then had chance to consolidate their learning by supporting their peers. Holistically it made a huge impact as the self-confidence of students improved, the number of “experts” in the room increased, all students benefitted from the intervention and the impact was bigger than their dance lessons – the leadership skills and ability to assess the work of others had a knock-on effect work across their other lessons.
Every school has some behaviour issues in lessons. What makes the difference in great schools is accepting that this exists and equipping staff to appropriately deal with it and redirect and engage learners. At Stratford we have an established behaviour system based on a series of warnings with associated escalating sanctions. It is a measure of how good things are here at SUAS that the problem Mr Moore sought to solve wasn’t at the high end of the scale, but rather how could he structure his lessons, language and teaching to avoid students reaching the first warning.
Mr Moore conducted extensive staff voice discussions to ascertain the best practice here at SUAS, as well as external research – particularly focused on the Work of Bill Rogers (https://headguruteacher.com/2013/01/06/behaviour-management-a-bill-rogers-top-10/ described beautifully by my hero Tom Sherrington)
Some examples of the techniques Mr Moore employed are;
proximity praise – in the event of a learner going off task, instead of spending time correcting the negative behaviour and potentially fostering a positive environment Mr Moore would identify a student exhibiting the desired behaviour and publicly praise that. “I can see Miranda has underlined her date and title, thank you” instead of “Why haven’t you underlined your date and title?” They both bring to students attention the desired behaviours whereas the former does so in a positive manner.
Praise before instruction – in the event a student requiring a “chivvy” to get started Mr Moore would frame the request to start working with a compliment related to the request. “John you’re a good organiser, could you sort your groups work into order” “Cortona, you’ve got beautiful handwriting – could you scribe for the group?” similar to proximity praise the desired behaviour is described but done so in a positive light.
At Stratford upon Avon we currently have the VIVO rewards system whereby teachers can reward students with a number of VIVO points across a lesson, that students can then use to purchase things at the “VIVO shop” from little things like bookmarks, pencil sharpeners up to topshop vouchers, or if you are really good and can save some big label items – bikes etc. But unfortunately, unlike bullseye no one is going home with a speedboat.
Miss Reynard identified the issue that although we as staff perceive this as an effective reward system, due to the nature of awarding VIVOs and the demands of getting through a 1hr lesson the normal trend was for teachers to sit down at the end of the day and award their days vivos – this led to a disjoint for students with the reward/praise being several steps removed from the activity that led to it.
To this end Miss Reynard investigated different reward strategies and different ways of issuing vivos. The main thing her research threw up was the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic learners – those who were motivated by an internal desire to succeed and those better motivated by external tangible rewards.
Some examples of what Miss Reynard deployed are;
Raffle tickets rewards – as Miss Reynard notices good work or good effort whilst praising students she issues them a raffle ticket, at the end of the lesson a raffle is drawn with “prizes” varying from small sweet treats ( infrequently to promote healthy living – don’t tell Jamie Oliver though) through to being student of the lesson – the more you do right the more raffle tickets you accrue the better your odds!
Task ticking off – An A3 sheet with students names and the a brief description of the lessons tasks are put at the front of the room – as students complete a task their name is ticked off the board – in some cases the (particularly extrinsic) students were really engaged by getting up and ticking off themselves.
Little things, that if applied consistently can easily make a difference to students engagement in learning.
The findings of the research fellowships have been presented internally, at an SSAT national conference and are currently under review to be published in selected national journals.