Which students have made phenomenal progress this year for you? How have they done it? How can we share their work?
These were questions that I had in mind in my early planning for my ‘Exhibition of Progress’ event at my school. Inspired by the great man, Ron Berger and his wonderful book ‘An Ethic of Excellence’, I set about creating something similar on a small scale. However, whilst Ron seemed more about exemplifying the absolute top level work, I was keen to celebrate simply ‘significant progress’. That might have been from a Level 3 to a Level 5 in a piece of work; it might have been major improvement in a sporting skill, or simply a substantial positive change in a student’s attitude and workrate over time.
How were the students selected? I simply asked all staff to nominate any students that stood out as making ‘significant progress’ in their subject. I got about 30 names across all Faculties which was a good starting point – but I’d like to increase that number next year!
Next, I got these students off timetable for a morning to really try and drill down on what they thought their reasons were for being nominated. Worryingly, many didn’t really know at first(!), which made me consider hard whether as teachers, we need to much more frequently make explicit to students the steps they have taken that have led to achievement. We are quick to return to targets, but celebrating those specific steps to success too would definitely help to build motivation as well as understanding.
I tried to get them to consider what they were like ‘before’, the things that had made a difference to achievement/attitude, and the ‘after’ -with the start and end point often being exemplified with comparative pieces of work.
I also got a specific quote from each teacher about their progress which was lovely – Here’s one: ‘Consistent effort and focus in English. She listens carefully… and her ability to take on advice has led to her going up 4 grades and is the result of a motivated mindset. Her resilience is inspiring.’
–Well done to Becky in my team for inspiring this young lady!
I also set them a questionnaire to rate different things that contributed to their progress.
What did we learn?
Some fascinating stuff:
- Managing to break out of one’s comfort zone has a huge impact
‘If I contribute more, it boosts my confidence and helps me to understand.’
‘I wasn’t afraid to try new things’
*We were pleased with this one as it directly links to our core school value of determination!
2. Self-discipline is a major driver
‘I started to ignore distractions’ , ‘ I started concentrating more’
3. The power of metacognition
‘I started taking on advice’ , ‘I started thinking about how to get better grades’
‘I know what to do to get to the next level’, ‘Before tests, I look back at my targets’
Survey results of which factors rated most highly in the progress journey
- Effort in classwork
- Personal determination to get better
- Positive relationship with teacher
- Effort in homework
- Personal understanding of the work/how to improve
- Enjoying the subject
What was the overall impact on the students as learners, as a result of their new approach?
‘I see the bigger picture’
‘I make people around me happy and energised’
‘I’m improving because I enjoy it’
I think the final quote can, importantly, be reversed too. It’s interesting that the majority of students enjoy the subject where their progress is substantial, but fail to recognise enjoyment comes often as a result of hard work and success first. (Can they apply this learning to other subjects I wonder?!)
Hard work/Challenge —Success— Confidence— Enjoyment
I talk more about this element in an earlier motivation blog here
The event itself was a really fantastic experience for all concerned. I displayed all the students’ posters around the room and invited parents of all the students along. Students were asked to explain to any visitors to their ‘stand’ what the contributing factors to their success were (basically talking through their posters). I encouraged parents to go round and not only listen to their own son/daughter’s progress ‘story’ but other students too.
What was really moving for me was to see several students who are no ‘angel’ shall we say, and not normally commended for their work, suddenly brimming with pride as they explained how they had turned the corner in a subject, and were now enjoying the buzz of feeling like a success.
I want to share some of these students’ progress journeys with staff, and look at ways of honing in on the ‘secrets to success’ within our teaching, and perhaps in our efforts to engage with those under-performing in our subjects.
I gave all students a ‘Learning Ambassador’ certificate which acknowledged not only their progress, but also their work in understanding the steps that took them there. My plan is to seek to pair these ambassadors up in the future with students who are ‘passive’ or ‘disengaged’ in their learning in the same subject, and look at perhaps peer mentoring them towards a change in direction, and an improvement in attitude and achievement.
Thanks for reading.