Tips on how to solicit and apply feedback/evaluation from pupils to improve behaviour management

Pupil evaluation and feedback
School councils and pupil voice have become established and effective aspects of pupils’ ability to contribute their views to school development plans. How can this same model be used to shape behaviour management in the classroom?

There is an increasing move within both education and the business world towards adopting a ‘lean’ approach to improve quality of content, delivery and vision – working smarter, not harder. At the heart of this development is the need to consider the needs and views of the ‘users’. Within the school this entails seeking the views, feelings and evaluations of all stakeholders – primarily, the students.

All of us who work within the context of a school environment can look back over the school day (or even an individual lesson) and think: ‘Well, that went well! We really made some progress, and everyone was engaged. Behaviour was brilliant!’ or ‘What a nightmare! What went wrong? I’d planned everything and tried to involve everyone but the whole lesson turned into complete chaos! Why can’t they behave?’

Whichever of the two comments above applies to your situation, your thoughts will certainly be affecting your own self-esteem and perhaps your self-confidence. So what information have you used to form your opinion? How accurate is that information? Have you sought the views of the students attending the session? If you have sought their views, how have you helped them to express them accurately? Using pupil evaluation and feedback can have a dramatic effect on both your lesson planning and behaviour management.

Collecting views, suggestions and feedback for school councils has become quite a sophisticated process in many schools, with elected representatives putting forward their classmates’ comments to a formal committee on a regular basis. Pupils can then see minutes of the meetings and are able to monitor how their suggestions are incorporated into the overall school development plans. Systems within classrooms, however, are perhaps not so well-developed. Most teachers will involve pupils in the development of classroom rules and behaviour expectations, but find it much more difficult to allow the same pupils the opportunity to evaluate lessons and how they feel about the application of these same rules and expectations.

Practical Tips
If you are going to go ahead with the concept of collecting views and suggestions from the pupils in order to shape and develop your own style of behaviour management techniques, there are a few key elements which should be common to all forms of evidence/evaluation collection.

It is important to ensure that all pupils feel they have a voice and will be listened to, not just the more articulate members of the class. With this in mind you will need to use a variety of approaches which can be differentiated to meet the individual needs of all pupils – systems which can be adapted to suit age, reading ability and writing and speaking skills.

Perhaps the simplest form of evaluation is through directed conversations with both groups and individuals. Use a structure to the conversation to keep it relevant and easier to interpret. A more formal approach could also be through discussion/debate and finally interviews with small groups or individuals. These should also give opportunity for pupils to reflect on their own thoughts and feelings and may include some anecdotal evidence.

Questionnaire-style evaluations can be made quite straightforward, giving the pupil a simple ‘agree or disagree’ answer to a clear statement. These questionnaire-type approaches can also be widened into checklists (how often something happens in class) and translated into graphs or charts for interpretation, together with a more ‘snapshot’-type review of on task/off task behaviour or with a link to motivation, enthusiasm, safety and so on.

Written evaluations will inevitably lead to more thoughtful consideration by the pupil and can also act as a record for future reference – something which conversations and debates fail to produce. The written form of evaluation can again be in response to some directed questions or observations and can be conducted as named individuals or ‘posted’ in anonymously. The anonymous responses can be a quick way of gathering instant feedback at the end of a lesson. Ask pupils to record in no more than two or three sentences how they felt during the lesson, including what they thought about: a) their own behaviourb) the behaviour of their peersc) your behaviour and management style

d) any other relevant aspects of the lesson.

The written style of evaluation can also be developed into a more pictorial representation, using drawings, paintings and so on. Pupil-developed posters can give a strong feedback message as well as reinforcing the behaviour code of the learning environment.

Give pupils the opportunity to voice their opinions, collect the information and link their responses to your own views. Analyse the information critically and apply changes, where necessary, to your own management techniques. Don’t forget to continue the process and see if the changes you make have been noticed and appreciated by the pupils.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in January 2010

About the author: Dave Stott has 30 years’ teaching experience including seven years as a headteacher. He has worked in mainstream and special schools, and Local Authority behaviour support services. Dave is now a writer, consultant and trainer.