Routines: Why I’m so set in my ways.

 

I am well aware I have particular routines which I stick to religiously both at work and at home. However, I have come to find my obsession with routines has had a positive impact in my classroom and is something I now see as an important part of my behaviour management toolbox.

Why I like routines

Routines mean nothing is left to the unexpected.  Students like to know exactly what to expect and how things will be done For example, what do students do when they enter your classroom? Where do they put their bags? What equipment do they need? Where do they sit? What do they do upon entry, do they write the date and title? Or is there an exam question for them? These are all questions students have to deal with when entering each teacher’s classroom. The anticipation of the unexpected can be tiresome for students and when most secondary school students often have more than ten teachers, can become rather exhausting. With a fixed routine I have found my students know exactly what to do as they enter my classroom. Clear entry routines means my classroom is ordered, calm, quiet and students quickly get on with the task at hand. I have found I can take the register quickly, speak to individual students, who owe homework for example, and generally get the lesson started quicker than if there was no routine in place.

Routines set high standards for all students. For something to be a routine is has to be elicited in every lesson. Allowing some students to come in one lesson, have a chat or sit in another seat as a one-off will only lead to poor behaviour and lower standards. Routines are an example of proactive management, organising the classroom and learners to enable a productive learning environment. Having a high learning standards promotes a positive and successful culture for learning.

Time saving! Firstly, it saves me time from battling with students. They know exactly what to expect from me, they know what learning looks like in my classroom and therefore what is expected of them behaviour wise. I spend less time engaging in conversations about small behaviour issues and more time teaching. As teachers we have 101 things to think about, I often refer to it as having 15 tabs open on a web browser. By having a clear routine I spend more time thinking about other parts of my lesson rather than the small issues of getting the students quiet and ready to work.

Student Example

An example of where my routines have had a clear impact was when I was given a present from a student. This lovely student happens to be obsessed with Lego and we have had many conversations about Lego this past year, I have learnt a lot! I was handed a female Lego robot, apparently she had to find me the right character which represented me. When I asked why I was a robot, her response was ‘you say the same thing when I come into your classroom, underline your date and title, you’re a robot!’ I have taken this as a positive as she can often be seen a poorly behaved student in school, but for me, every page in her book the date and title is underlined and she has even taken it upon herself to hand out rulers to those students who need them at the beginning of the lesson!

image1 (2)
The Female Robot

 

 

 
Martha Boyne

 

References:

Henley. M., (2010) Classroom Management: A Proactive Approach. 2nd Edition. Pearson.

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What about our language? How we can use words to give our classrooms the nudge.

In teaching, we have all been talking about Carol Dweck’s work on growth mindset. The education endowment foundation found that students received training on growth mindset made an extra two months progress compared to control groups in English and Maths lessons.  Many schools are trying in helping students develop from a fixed to a growth mindset through simple changes to the language they use. In our school we have been doing this through displays, assemblies and during deliberate one to one interaction with students. Some examples of the language we’ve tried to get students to use are below:

Mindset

But what about our language?

This week I have been thinking about student engagement in our classrooms. While observing some lessons I picked up on the subtle effect of the teachers’ language choice of words on students’ engagement with the task at hand. I was surprised by how much of an emotional impact I felt as a result of the words spoken by the class teacher, particularly when they seemed more in line with the fixed mind-set examples above. To give you an idea of what I am talking about:

Teacher A: “What I am going to get you to do now is…”

The problem with this one is that we are suggesting the activity is going to be onerous before they even get started. As a result of this instruction, I saw students become more apathetic, and even I found that I wasn’t too interested in getting involved in the task.

Teacher B: “In case you are interested…”

Again, we are suggesting here that students probably aren’t interested, or even worse that they shouldn’t be!

Using positive language to increase engagement

As teachers, part of our role is encouraging students to see the value in our subjects and in the subject matter we are covering in that particular lesson. I think one of the easiest ways we can start to do this is in careful selection of the language we use. Moving away from the negative and passive language seen above, and instead using positive active language that will help carry students along with us. I have found that I can make students believe that even doing an extended bit of writing is exciting when I introduce it as such.

For example, this Friday afternoon I was teaching concentration calculations to a Year 10 group that are yet to realise how amazing science is and sometimes (dare I admit it) lack engagement. Through deliberate selection of the language I used to introduce tasks I managed to have every student in the room complete at least 10 calculations quite happily.

This idea is supported by “Nudge Theory” which is discussed by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein in their (non-teaching) book “Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness”. The theory goes that indirect suggestion and positive reinforcing can help us achieve non-forced compliance.

I thought about the language the teachers above had used and how they could have changed it (see below). These small changes in our behaviour will help to nudge students towards making the right choices and increase their willingness to engage with us and our subjects.
Nudge

So, next time you are finding engagement waning in your classroom, think about the language you use to deliver your instructions. Changing teacher habits like this does take deliberate practice, so maybe try to come up with a few phrases you can rely on and see if you can’t give your class the nudge!

Emily Clements

References:

Changing Mindsets, a project by the education endowment foundation (2015).

Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness (2009)

Nudge Theory, find out more on Wikipedia

How can you add value to your teaching? Connect with your students.

Whenever I have the privilege of observing another teacher’s lesson, the thing that strikes me first is always the relationship that the teacher has with their students. You can sense this through the emanating atmosphere when you enter the classroom; sometimes uneasy, tense, staid or – dare I say it – rebellious, at others focused and respectful, full of positive energy, motivation and application. There are manifest reasons for why this may be the case, some a result of the teacher or lesson, others the particular topic, room or time of day. Yet the most positive atmospheres have a common thread running through them: excellent teacher-student relationships.

The importance of teachers building positive connections with students has been highlighted in recent and seminal studies. These suggest that students are more motivated when teachers take a genuine interest in them (Ferlazzo, 2015) and create inclusive classroom conditions (Ryan and Deci, 2000). The damaging impact of not building these relationships has also been stressed (Ginsberg, 2015). My own small-scale research for my MA in Education also highlighted the importance of positive teacher-student connections. Across interviews with a number of my students, ‘getting to know students as individuals’ was the most frequently coded reason given for the development of motivation-encouraging relationships.

Why is fostering these positive individual relationships with students so important? Well, apart from the pleasure that comes from getting to know another human being at more than a surface level, they have a positive impact on the quality of learning that occurs. Having these positive connections won’t in themselves make for excellent lessons, but what they can do is to add value to every aspect of your teaching. Students will be better behaved, work harder, respond better to feedback, show increased motivation, be more sympathetic to your misjudgements and in sum drive your class forwards more positively than if these connections haven’t been made.

So how can we go about building these individual connections with our students? The most important thing may be just finding (in reality, making) the time for the many small inputs that help forge these positive connections. Here are some of the things – and I’m sure there are many others besides – that I believe are worth making time for to build these connections:

– Learn the name of every student that you teach as soon as possible at the start of the year. Don’t just hope this will happen naturally over time. Get your class photo lists out and consciously learn them. Nothing that follows will work without this essential prerequisite.

– Get to your lessons a couple of minutes early and spend that time talking to individual students as you wait to begin, trying to find out something of their lives and interests outside of your lesson.

– Greet each student at the door of your classroom by name as they enter, saying good morning and asking how they are. Do the same as students leave, this time highlighting something positive they have done in the lesson, for example asking great questions, showing improved concentration or finally nailing that 8-mark exam question.

– Always say hello to your students in the corridor or around school. Make this an active approach; be the one to make the first move. If you can, stop to have a chat with them. Remind them about a due homework or test. Ask them how their half term was. You will find that over time students will start to seek you out as well, further developing the teacher-student relationship (and brightening up your day).

– When returning tests or assessments, find time to speak with each student individually about it. Let them know what you were pleased about and reinforce areas they need to improve. Support them if they under-performed and stretch them if they had success. Make your students aware that their results are not just a ‘number’ for you, but a signal of their progress and a spotlight on their strengths and weaknesses.

– When you ask a student a question in class, be sure to always listen to their answer. It can be easy to ‘switch off’ sometimes when teaching and only half-listen – especially if you are concerned about time or monitoring behaviour – but nothing will hinder these connections more than your students feeling as if their contributions aren’t valued.

– Following on from this, don’t tolerate anything less than total respect in your lessons, not only between you and your students, but also between the students themselves. Make sure everyone feels like they can make a valuable contribution to your lesson in a supportive and respectful environment. Encourage your students to make mistakes (and learn from them). Encourage all students to get fully involved in tasks and activities. Don’t let a student fall ‘under the radar’ as every student needs to feel like a valued part of your class.

– Share something of yourself with your students. You are their teacher, but don’t feel you have to act like a ‘teacher’ all the time. Show some humanity. Share a story about your past, demonstrate empathy with struggling students or relay an amusing anecdote from your weekend. 

Ben Wright

References:

  • Ferlazzo, L. (2015) Building a Community of Self-Motivated Learners: Strategies to Help Students Thrive in School and Beyond, Oxon: Routledge.
  • Ginsberg, M. (2015) ‘Shadowing a student shows how to make learning more relevant’, Phi Delta Kappan, 97(4), pp.26-30.  SAGE [Online] Available at: www.sagepub.com
  • Ryan, R. and Deci, E. (2000) ‘Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions and New Directions, Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25(1), pp. 54-67.

Evidence based practice, why are we so bothered?

With myself and Emily currently completing our Master’s in Education and Ben having already completed his, our research is often at the forefront of our minds.  As an advocate for evidence based practice I have found I have focused much of my writing around this topic.

About 18 months ago I read an article by Ben Goldacre ‘Building Evidence into Education’. Goldacre raised a very valid point, professions such as medicine, nursing and midwifery see evidence as integral in providing the best outcomes for their patients as well as continuing CPD. Not only is this argument both popular but academic as well. Therefore why are we, professional teachers, not engaging with this practice and using evidence to improve the outcome of our pupils?

So, what exactly is evidence based practice?

Evidence based practice is using current literature and the available evidence to make decisions about our teaching practice and to inform policy making. Obviously evidence can take different forms and evidence used in the medical profession will be different to that used in education, but applying the principle of sourcing evidence, evaluating it, applying it and using it to further inform practice is something the teaching profession should be looking to achieve. In short, teachers should be using the literature that is out there and applying it to their own classroom practices and then evaluating the effect.

How did this impact my Master’s research?

Ben, Emily and I set up a journal club to encourage colleagues to engage with current literature. The club runs every half term and we discuss the latest research article, provided by ourselves, and how this can impact on our teaching. We often focus on a research questions and critically analyse this as a group of professionals.

As part of my Master’s research I decided to analyse the impact journal club has as a mechanism for teachers to engage with evidence based practice. From my findings there was an overwhelming agreement from staff that they felt education should be evidence based and that journal club could have a positive impact on engagement, however many teachers do not attend. I also identified that teachers see the value evidence has for the development of their practice and engagement was talked about as being ‘forward thinking’. This frustrated me somewhat as although the teaching body wanted to move the profession forward to engage with evidence based practice, there are clear barriers in place which leaves teachers unable to engage. What these barriers are I am currently researching as part of my dissertation. I hope to disseminate these barriers and discover how we can work towards this culture in time for the next academic year.

Martha Boyne

References:

 

Biesta. G. (2007) ‘Why ‘What Works’ Won’t Work: Evidence Based Practice and the Democratic Deficit in Educational Research’. Educational Theory 57:1

Boyne, M. and Beadle, H. (in press).  Journal Club: A mechanism for bringing evidence based practice into school. Teacher Education Advancement Network (TEAN) Journal, [forthcoming].

Goldacre.B. (2013) Building Evidence into Education. Department for Education

can be accessed here:

http://www.badscience.net/2013/03/heres-my-paper-on-evidence-and-teaching-for-the-education-minister/