Our inquiry question:
If we have a school wide focus on Descriptive Feedback will students feel more connected to the school and will their academic achievement increase?
At the end of my last post, our staff met and re-focused on the vision of the school. We also made a couple of connections that really clarified out vision. We have really focused on the work of John Hattie, particularly his work in the area of Descriptive Feedback. We had a clear vision instructionally, but where we were struggling was the connecting the dots between feedback and student connectedness.
After much discussion one of our teachers made the connection. Connecting students to school is not unlike connecting them to the curriculum. First, the students need clear targets on their behaviour goal. Once a goal is established, clear criteria needs to be set out that will serve as scaffolding for the student to achieve their goal. Feedback from teachers and parents is then based directly on the criteria.
The concept of a behaviour goal can be scary for educators, but fear not, this is not a move away from students centeredness, or about controlling students. A behaviour goal does not mean a student is misbehaving, actually it’s not even close. We are looking at potential barriers that are affecting a student’s ability to connect to school. Often that has little to do with traditional “misbehaviour”.
For example, one of the kids we are concerned about is a new student in one of our primary classrooms. She is a sweet girl, but shy and is struggling to make solid connections with other students. Her goal is/was to respond appropriately to other kids. Her criteria for success is:
- To not run and hide when upset
- Use words to solve problems
- Make eye contact
- Play with other kids
When we are working with this student we are reinforcing the criteria we have set out. If I am on the playground at lunch and I see her engaged positively with kids, I will find time to say, “I really like the way you are using your words and making great eye contact with the kids on the playground”. If I see her struggle, I will talk about what happened and what she could do differently…”Maybe next time use your words instead of running away and if that doesn’t work, you could always play with someone else or ask an adult for help.” This continual reinforcement at home and school has made a real difference with many of our kids.
The other bonus, is it gives the adults in the school another reason to engage kids in conversations. The more we do that, the more we connect to each other and it is through those connections and relationships that we can affect real change and make all students feel like they belong and excited about coming to school.