Garaeth Davies and myself, Dave Grimmett, ran a project with a group of staff over the course of the year with no small objective! We were determined to address the students whose attitudes were persistently unsatisfactory, and invariably their performance levels were also under par. We were also aware Heads of House and Heads of Faculty had identified significant concerns with ‘tone-setting’ demotivated students and the major impact not only on individual outcomes, but the outcomes of classes affected by these students.
Our end of 2017-18 Year 11 P8 performance showed a clear correlation between demotivation in our ATL (Attitudes to Learning reports) and final GCSE results, whilst the whole School Improvement Plan identified Student Voice as being an under-represented area. Therefore we thought why not combine these two things as the foundation for our project?
The project sought therefore to improve outcomes for students in Year 11 who had been identified at the start of the year, as either being ‘passive’ or ‘disengaged’ in their attitude to learning, and/or significantly under-performing in a subject.
A CPD group was set up to deliver the project, and each staff member identified 2 or 3 students within their Year 11 class who fitted the criteria above. Detailed individual surveys were administered to identify specific learning needs. This was a really interesting part of the process as we identified a range of information regarding teaching and learning strategies students found useful in lessons, characteristics of the lessons where they are most successful, and more. Garaeth also compiled a wider sample survey of 40 Year 11 students and identified quality feedback from staff as being one of the most effective factors to improving motivation, attitudes and performance.
This data was then studied carefully in partnership with a series of short summaries of proven strategies for raising attainment from wider educational evidence and research. Whilst students were mostly considered in their survey responses, we were keen to ensure that we didn’t just respond to their whims, but instead sought a way of cross-referencing some students’ reflections with evidence based research. Staff then devised an action plan for each of their nominated students, using two strategies over the project duration to improve outcomes.
The project had a positive impact on student progress with 67% of students demonstrating an improvement in attitude to learning and/or academic performance.
69% of Staff reported in that the project wasn’t a workload concern and that the strategies they identified were relatively easy to implement.
33% of Staff identified that the trial may be more effective with a younger year group (as Yr 11 is probably too late!) and this was a key reflection point for us.
Feedback also recognised the crucial impact of engaging with evidence based research in implementing policy -69% of staff stated that the evidence booklet was useful in helping them decide on appropriate strategies for helping them intervene with demotivated and under-achieving students, and this was commended by the Headteacher in the drive to make the Academy more evidence driven.
To conclude, this evidence points to the useful nature of the project for staff, and the project team presented to all staff in a Teach-meet session in June with the aim of promoting the future impact of individual student voice coupled with wider research in finding solutions to under-performance.