Exceeding Expectations in the Classroom

In the aftermath of my recent blog on rewards in the classroom, I stumbled across a few articles which suggested that rewarding students can actually damage student progress and expectations. It has made me begin to consider a varied way of rewarding my students.

When my current school was visited by the “Big O” three years ago, SMT presented their evidence that students were making the expected three levels of progress. This was, however, days after HMI had changed the criteria and they started asking about four levels of progress – they wanted to know how many students were exceeding expectations and how the school was promoting and managing this.

In my classroom, I regularly reward students for meeting my expectations – if they enter the room and immediately focus in on the starter activity, I give a tick (three ticks for a credit). I have always wanted students to feel that meeting my expectations is a positive thing and encourage those who are not, yet, to start meeting them.

Now I am beginning to wonder whether I am selling my students and myself short. Should I be rewarding students more for exceeding expectations both as a classroom teacher and as a tutor and would this have a more positive impact on the learning that my students make?

As an example – one of my greatest bug-bears and wastes of time is chasing missing homework. Such a simple thing can consume so much time when students don’t turn up to detentions and things go round in circles. Perhaps, instead of punishing those for not handing it in on time and rewarding those who do, I should try rewarding those who show that they have completed the homework early. By rewarding students for being organised and planning in advance, I may be encouraging them to make more positive decisions about their time management and organisation, in addition to reducing my time wasted by missing pieces of work. Of course, there will always be those who miss deadlines…

The problem with this model of expectations is that, however much we might try and sugar-coat it, there sometimes must be different expectations for different students. Not every student has the same upbringing or family support. I have always tried to be consistent and I hope that my students feel that I have been also, but when it comes to rewarding exceeding expectations, we need to address the inequality in our school. How can we possibly have the same expectations for the student who has excellent access to the internet at home over a student who may not have a regular home to go to?

It is something that I will continue to consider over the next few weeks – let me know if you have any thoughts.

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