Saturday, March 15, 2014

Using behavioural science in the classroom to unlock motivation

Everyone starts with an A

Applying behavioural insight to improve performance and narrow the socioeconomic attainment gap in education.

“Imagine a classroom where everyone started off an academic year with an “A” grade, and in order to keep the grade, a pupil had to show continuous improvement throughout the year. In this classroom, the teacher would have to dock points from a pupil’s assessment when his or her performance or achievement was inadequate, and pupils would work to maintain their high mark rather than to work up to it. How would this affect effort, expectations, performance, and assessment relative to current practice?”

This is one of the questions the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts Manufacture and Commerce) pose in their report
 Everyone Starts with an A, which explores the application of behavioural insight to educational policy and practice.

Using research from behavioural science and our evolving understanding of human nature, the report explores how effort, motivation, learning enjoyment, resilience, and overall performance at school can be influenced in ways not often traditionally recognised.

Download EveryoneStarts with an 'A' full report in English (PDF 393.6KB)
Download Everyone Starts with an 'A' poster in English (PDF 71.4KB)
Download Everyone Starts with an 'A' full report in German (PDF 411.4KB)
Download Everyone Starts with an 'A' poster in German (PDF 56.3KB)

Connecting theory to practice

Supported by the Vodafone Foundation Germany, this report is intended to start a conversation among educators and includes practical tips to help connect theory to real-life practice in the classroom.

Three concept areas are covered:
·         Growth mindsets: the belief that intelligence and ability are not a fixed and innate trait, but rather they can be improved and strengthened through effort and practice.
·         Cognitive biases: our thinking patterns can have systematic influence on motivation, evaluation, and teacher and pupil expectations about performance. Anchoring, the halo effect, confirmation bias, and loss aversion may all play a role. 
·         Surroundings: the physical environment of the classroom can affect various cognitive and non-cognitive skills - such as attention levels and self-control - which are important for learning.

These three points are promising areas for further research. An improved understanding of how these concepts affect pupil learning might be especially valuable to disrupt patterns of assumption about performance levels, for those who self-identify as being part of a stigmatised group, such as those from a low socioeconomic background. The RSA hopes that practitioners will continue the discussion started here by trialling the tips and techniques in their own schools and sharing their experiences with peers and colleagues.

For more information, download the paper here (or choose your preferred version above), read blogs about the launch of the report here and here, or view the press release here

Nathalie Spencer is a Senior Researcher in the RSA’s Social Brain Centre, and a longtime reader of the Stirling Behavioural Science blog.  

1 comment:

Lynn said...

The paper had some useful thoughts about offsetting many of the psychological biases encountered in everyday life. It did leave me with a question, however.
It is my understanding that people will offer discretionary effort (ie work harder) where they are operating under positive reinforcement. The suggestion that everyone starts with an A and works to not lose that grade seems to me to be the very definition of operating under negative reinforcement. Therefore, the premise strikes me (although of course I have confirmation bias!) as flawed, from that perspective at least. Can anyone offer any insight?