Applying Milgram’s Findings to Teaching and Learning

Milgram’s classical experiment into obedience led to some surprising revelations, putting the ethical and bias issues to one side.  Milgram developed the Agency Theory (1974) which indicates that people will obey and take responsibility for their own actions (agentic state).  For example, those students who show concern, guilt and/ or remorse for their actions within school.  Whereas others will indicate that they were told to carry out their actions by another (autonomous state).  This is often been referred to as been deputised and thereby taking on authority. For example, “it’s not my fault, you put me in charge” or “John told me to hit him.”

Another way of interpreting this is when a teacher asks a student to act on their behalf, by acting as a teaching assistant (peer support) or collecting the bank of computers from the classroom next door.  This is all rooted in the concept of legitimacy (legitimate power), that is the person carrying out the activity (student) believes that the person who is making the request (teacher) as the authority to direct them, thus any consequence is levelled against the legitimacy of the teacher, not the student. However, there are other factors which influence the students’ obedience and conformity.

During the experiment, it was discovered that if the experimenter (person giving the instructions) was not wearing a lab coat (uniform) obedience drop by 20%. This indicates that legitimacy within the classroom is linked to the way a teacher dresses.  For example, physical education (PE) teachers wear sportswear whilst other teachers wear professional clothing such as a suit and tie. Some teachers refer to this as their professional armour.  What is interesting is that when the teacher (experimenter) was not present obedience dropped and the subject/ respondent cheated or attempted to circumvent the experiment to avoid giving the electric shock.  This is reflected in the classroom when the teacher leaves the room.  Students typically relax and start chatting, what Milgram discovered was that the proximity of the legitimate power (teacher) influenced obedience. For example, in the classroom, simply moving closer to a student who is talking will result in that student refocusing due to the perception of consequence (verbal reprimand) of their action (talking), behaviour management by proximity.  Other factors such as the number of students who are showing inappropriate behaviour can result in reduced conformity, leading to a poor learning experience for the whole class.  However, Milgram’s experiment suggests that if you can reduce the negative behaviour in one student, it is likely to reduce the negative behaviour in other students too (social modelling).

Finally, Milgram’s findings suggest that the location (classroom) has an impact on obedience and conformity. Indicating that the classroom and school is a teacher’s power based, linked to the students perceived value and prestige (high regard) of the school. Thus, if a school and/ or a teacher can build prestige within the classroom, students are more likely to follow and achieve the learning expectations. Along with other factors like a sense of identity and belongingness, this is one of the reasons of a student uniform.

A recent review of the Agency Theory (1989)

Visualising Learning: Differentiation and Scaffolding

Part of the Visualising Education Blog Series

Differentiation is another one of those terms which teachers interpret in many different ways.  For example, differentiation by outcome, differentiation by input, differentiation by learning level to differentiation by activity/ task.  Thus a simple definition of differentiation could be what will you do differently for each student/ group.  When I teach differentiation I use the RAGTOP acronym (Resource, Assessment, Group, Task, Outcome and Pace) as this gives the trainee teacher a framework to reflect and develop their personalised approach to differentiation within their specialised teaching domain. However, there are many items missing from this, such as questioning, modelling, and personalisation. Other acronyms have been presented such as PROMPT (Pace, Resource, Outcome, Modelling, Personalisation and Task). What is clear, is that these acronyms are starting points which aid the teacher in developing their own unique approach to differentiation for their students, classes and specific learning domains.

Each student brings their own needs and expectations to the classroom and the teacher needs to recognise and address these needs and expectations within the planning and delivery of lessons. The process of planning for differentiation is just a subroutine within the lesson planning process.  For example, based on student data the teacher could differentiate by assessment, where students produce different levels of work.  This is like the BTEC courses where the student(s) aim for either Pass, Merit or Distinction. (Ignoring the debate about how this type of provision results in reduced motivation and aspirations.) Similarly, differentiation by outcome, for example, can group one explain which muscles are used during the squat thrust, whereas, group two may be looking at the internal mechanism of the quadriceps during the squat thrust.  Semantically, it could be argued that the real difference between these two types of differentiation is that one has assessment criteria (BTEC) and the other is about establishing or consolidating knowledge.  However, at some point, the students will have to undertake an assessment to prove that learning has taken place and thus achieving the requirements of the qualification. I have provided a simplistic top-level view of this process in figure one. It is at this point where the confusion between differentiation and scaffolding starts to develop.

Simplistic Top-Level View of Differentiation

Figure One: Visualisation of differentiation within a lesson

Scaffolding (Wood, Bruner, and Ross’s (1976)) is about dripping information to allow the students to progress, which leads to attainment. For example, use capital letters and full stops, then moving on to capital letters, full stops and compound sentences and so on. Thus, Scaffolding is linked to the concept, ‘zone of proximal development’ (ZPD) which is attributed to Vygotsky and his theories of learning.  I will purposefully avoid the debate about who coined the phrase ZPD. However, in simple terms we can visualise ZPD as a journey to becoming a Master, with many hurdles along the way, I will refer to these hurdles as ‘points of frustration.’ When a student becomes frustrated it is because they ‘do not know what to do,’ they have hit a point of frustration and require additional input from the master (teacher, knowledgeable peer or video) to move to the next stage. This input may need to be differentiated based on the student’s needs, skills and knowledge. However, as the student begins to develop mastery of the subject they hit fewer points of frustration as they have more knowledge and skills to draw against, see figure two.

ZPD as Learning Journey

Figure Two: Visualisation of the ZPD as a learning journey

The key message is that differentiation supports the scaffolding process, although there is an argument that they are not mutually exclusive, thus, are dependent upon each other. Another way of looking at this is, how will you differentiate learning to avoid points of frustration, whilst move learning forward.

To visualise differentiation within lesson planning I have provided a simplistic lesson plan below, in figure 3 (for a discussion about lesson planning click here). Remember that progression is about identifying any improvement or the creation of skills and/ or knowledge (what does the student know now which they did not know before?). From the simplistic lesson plan example, figure 3, differentiation is based on the students learning level (Pass, Merit and Distinction) and their outputted work (Assessment). The objective is the students learning target and the visualise progression, is how the student will see that they have progressed. Scaffolding is achieved at two levels a) by completing each learning episode, which in this case is separated by the teacher’s input and b) within the learning episode where students can progress through the levels. Similarly, a group of students could spend the full lesson just completing the first learning episode, on the assumption that this is the core learning for the assessment and you need the pass students to achieve all the requirements for all levels (Pass, Merit and Distinction).

Notice that in the lesson plan, learning episode one leads into learning episode two. If during the first teacher input, the teacher’s assessment (Assessment for Learning) shows that some or all of the students achieve that requirement the teacher can skip the first learning activity. Making students who already have this knowledge and skillset, complete the first learning episode, is not progressing their knowledge, understanding or skillset and therefore no progression is taking place.



Figure Three: A simplistic lesson plan showing differentiation and scaffolding.

Proposed Behavioural Card System

During my time as the Integration Manager, I was asked to draft a card monitoring and tracking system which would address the issues related to students who were on the behaviour card for a long period of time.  This policy was design to integrate into the inclusion process, which I was responsible for, whilst tapping into the expertise and skill set of the integration team as a whole.   This blog gives a historical perspective (2006) of the card system in a large inner city high school.

The profile of the students who spend a long period on card (more than four weeks) clearly mapped across to students labelled as BSED (behavioural, social and emotional development).  More specifically, nearly all of these students were receiving specialised intervention through the support team for classroom related behaviour. It was clear that the card system had to be separate from the specialised intervention or risk losing the student engagement within this process.  Although, there are clear links between the proposed system and the intervention system. The draft policy can be downloaded from here.


The students just laughed and thought it was another gimmick, until the first parent meetings and the constant phone calls to the parent(s) at work. Within three weeks and numerous complaints about phoning parents at work, most students had been successful and were taken off their behavioural card. Critically, for most students, they did not want me to phone their parent(s) or request a parent meeting.  Student feedback, highlighted that the consistent pressure on the parent(s) had resulted in the students’ losing privileges such as access to digital technology or been grounded.  Also highlighted was the robustness of the policy as there were no loop holes and it was consistently applied with no exceptions.

For the remaining students, it was a consistent application of the policy and support through the support team which resulted in these students settling down to a more manageable level of behaviour. Unfortunately, for a few students, they were asked to find other schools.

Key Requirements

  • The member of staff requires protected time at the end of the school day to contact parent(s), send letters and hold parent meetings.
  • The member of staff requires flexible timetabling in the morning (lesson one) to address any concerns, this is a critical requirement.
  • The member of staff needs to be seen as an authentic person of authority (for student and parent).
  • The system needs to be seen as a robust system which is consistently applied fairly to all students.
  • The member of staff needs to be committed and pro-active

High School Nurture Groups

As part of my role as the Integration Manager at Holden Lane High School I was asked to develop a nurture group system which increased core literacy whist addressing the behaviour, social and emotional development (BSED) of the students. In the following blog I have outlined how we addressed the core literacy requirements. This blog gives a historical perspective (2006).

Provision Map

I created a progression map (see figure 1) which visualised the literacy requirements of the nurture groups and created an assessment matrix which was used to level all student work. The progression map an assessment matrix can be downloaded from here.

Nurture Group Progression Map 2006
Figure 1: Nurture Group Progression Map 2006

Wall Display

One of the key issues which we faced as a team was the students exposure to reading and writing.  To tackle this we introduced read for comprehension using small blocks of text, about half a page.  Any more then this the students where unable to retain the information and engage with the learning activity. To support the students speaking and writing skills I created a range of wall displays which was integrated into the learning process.  For example, when supporting the students during the writing stage we ask the student to speak their sentence.  Then we compared their sentence with the sentences on the wall display which helped the student to visual  and restructure their sentence (up level their work). Below are examples of the wall displays which we used and were language accessible to our students.  These became a critical component within the assessment framework.  We also developed the students ability to level each over work and suggest were improvements can be made.

  • Jim was scared but Linda was not.
  • Jim was scared of the water but Linda was not.
  • Jim was scared of the water but his girlfriend Linda was not.
  • Jim was scared of the fast flowing water but his girlfriend Linda was not.
  • Jim was scared of the fast flowing water but his girlfriend Linda was laughing as they paddled down the rapids.
  • We know that Romeo loved Juliet.
  • We know that Romeo fell in love with Juliet at first sight.
  • The book describes how Romeo falls in love with Juliet at first sight.
  • Shakespeare describes how Romeo falls in love with Juliet at first sight, in act one scene five.
  • Romeo falls in love with Juliet at first sight and we know this as Romeo said “did my heart love till now… I never saw true beauty till this night,” act one scene five.
  • The man casted a dark shadow.
  • The man casted a dark, evil shadow over the boy’s body.
  • The man casted a dark, evil shadow over the boy’s body, which layed face down.
  • The man casted a dark, evil shadow over the boy’s body, which layed face down in the alley.
  • The man casted a dark, evil shadow over the boy’s body, which laid face down, twisted and distorted in the damp alley.

We also used inspirational sentences which were linked to the classroom, allowing the student to conceptualise the meaning.

  • As the light radiated through the window, rainbow coloured beams were projected across the room creating an explosion of colour on the wall.
  • The glorious sunset burnt the night sky to remind us that wars are not confined to the battlefront; they are also destroyers of cities.
  • The whiteboard was sparkling in the sunlight, like a star in the night sky.
  • The yellow walls of the classroom were like large sunflowers, reflecting the children’s energy as a mirror reflects an image.

Mini Projects

Once we had established the core literacy skills we started to integrate mini projects as learning activities. I have outlined two projects below.

1) Design an Actionman boat

This project consumed one full term and the students fully engaged with it due to its kinaesthetic nature. The students used the class time to undertake research and write their reports. As the test day grow near we asked the students to bring photos of their craft into school, allowing the other students to evaluate how successful the craft will be.  This also allowed us to check that the students had started to create the craft.

Project Brief

  • You need to build a boat or a raft.
  • Made from recyclable materials.
  • Support an Action-Man.
  • Research into boats and hull shapes.
  • Design Ideas.
  • Final Idea.
  • Build and test boat or raft.
  • Evaluate your project.

Example of wall display sentences.  These are based on what happened during the testing of the craft.

  • Kristy’s boat tipped over but Liam’s boat did not.
  • Kristy’s boat tipped backward but Liam’s boat stayed balanced.
  • Kristy’s boat tipped backwards as the actionman was sitting at the back of the boat but Liam’s boat stayed balanced.
  • Kristy’s boat tipped backwards as the actionman was sitting at the back of the boat but Liam’s boat stayed balanced because his boat had a large deck.
  • Kristy’s boat tipped backwards as the actionman was sitting at the back of the boat but Liam’s boat stayed balanced so the actionman did not get wet; as his boat had a large deck.

2) Love Story

The second project was an extended pace of writing, which can be downloaded here.  We wanted this project to promote parent engagement with their child’s learning and to use it at parents evening. To make this work I had to contact all the parents numerous times throughout the project life. Critically, during parents evening I compared this writing with the baseline writing activity which the student completed prior to starting the nurture group.  Although the parents were very proud of their child’s work they were expressing how positive they feel about supporting their child during the project.

Nurture Group Evaluation

The one year evaluation was very positive and can be downloaded from here. It was clear that the initial concept was successful and delivered the core literacy skills as required.  However, two key weaknesses were highlighted a) lack of numeracy skills and b) smaller then expected grains in behavioural, social and emotional skills (BSED).

Visualising Intervention – Educational Transition

Using A Temporal View of Transition To Support Educational Transition

Note: this article is based on working practice during 2005, 2011

Part of the Visualising Education Blog Series

Transition, whether it is from infant school to primary school, from primary school to high school, from high school to college or the workplace or from college to university, is fundamentally the same. That is, helping students to move from one establishment to another.

The transition framework which was developed to manage transition into and out of the school is displayed below in figure 1.  This framework is based on the work carried out with students who were being transferred between schools due to significant issues which were typically labelled as ‘behavioural.’

Simple Transition Framework 2005 A Practical Guide To Inclusion-.png
Figure 1) Simple Transition Framework 2005 – A Practical Guide To Inclusion

The key to transition is to recognise that transition can be viewed in a temporal fashion, which is highlighted in figure 1 with the labelled ‘zones of commitment.’ Secondly, it was identified that the transition success can be assessed at different stages across the transition period.  Using this transition framework it is possible to identify strategies and additional support to increase the transition success of the student.

The assessment theme (figure 1) suggests areas which need to be explored during the assessment process.  The most important factors, where the students perception of the staff and other students approachability and accessibility lead to feeling connected and valued (this is referred to as belonging in current research round transition).  Other issues related to the remaining themes could be addressed once the student establishes a sense of belonging.

Using The Zones of Commitment

1) Pre-arrival:

  • Visit current school introduce yourself promoting approachable and accessible
    • Wear something novel I use funky ties as a talking point
    • Provide students with a contact point to request further information (assurance)
      • email, webpages and forms, text message, social networking
    • Send out literature (newsletter, flyer etc…) which makes the new school welcoming and friendly
      • Include frequency asked questions
      • Incorporate digital media about transition into the school website and reference to it
    • Provide action lists
      • Before your first day you need to have … (provide a tick list)
      • Suggest shops and websites which will support the students and parents in preparing
      • On your first day (what to expect and what happens)
      • Named person (teacher name, photograph, a little friendly introduction)
    • Produce videos
      • Use videos of other students (year seven) explaining what school life is like
      • Use videos to explain rules and expectation of the school
      • Use videos to show off school clubs and events
    • Knowledge and Skills
      • Provide exemplar work
      • Suggest what work new students can be doing before they arrive (preparing)
      • Direct them to relevant websites and downloads

2) Induction

  • Welcome and Introduce
    • Too much information overwhelms people – Keep It Short and Simple (KISS)
    • Provide opportunities which allow the students to form friendships (student centred activities)
    • Get involved, making yourself approachable
  • Check everything!
    • Use the same check list which you previously shared to produce a sense of success
    • Check personal data
    • Collect forms and other paperwork
    • Give out a trolley load of papers and books!
  • Explore the school
    • Identify key locations which the student can use (toilets, student support, main reception)
    • Explain the room numbering etc… (challenge students by asking which rooms\ floors different subjects are on or which direction they are from your current location)
    • Help to the students to visualised the shape of the school (my old school looked like a fork)
    • Talk about rules and expectations as you move around the buildings and open spaces
    • Students services (what they provide and how they help students) make a point of introducing the student to all members of the student service team

3) Initial Transition

  • Named person
    • Provide a person which the student can talk to and ask questions
    • Return forms or ask for additional paperwork
    • Keep a track on commitment (attendance) and engagement (learning)
  • Join clubs & represent the school
    • Promotes school identity (belongingness)
    • Clubs are great at helping students find people with similar interests
    • Become house representatives
    • Participate on student bodies within the school
    • Contribute to newsletters

4) Problem Solving

  • Long term transition – bumps along the way (signposting)
    • Support student by recognising that they may be upset or have a problem
    • Encourage student to seek advice from the name person or support worker (student service)
    • Check if student has accessed advice, if not encourage to do so

This blog is based on extracts from this book: A Practical Guide To Inclusion: A Manual For Implementation and Delivery

Visualising Praise – A Verbal Framework

Part of the Visualising Education Blog Series

Over the years, I have learnt, to my expense, that praise is subjective to each student, so much so that praise can activate or deactivate a learner.  Worst still, for some learners it acts as an ignition point for conflict.  As with most teaching practices, it is critical to know your learners. Praise can be awarded (praise is a reward) directly (from teacher to student) or indirectly (from teacher to parent to student). Praise can be holistic (group or class) or personalised (unique to the individual student).  Praise can be intrinsic (internal to the learner) or extrinsic (external to the learner). Furthermore, praise can have a value or weight, presenting the idea of a praise taxonomy.  For example, which has more value a ‘gold star sticker’ or a ‘praise postcard home.’  Finally, praise can be used to remind and reinforce other students of what they should be or need to be doing at any given time (Behaviour For Learning).  For example:

Thank you Sam.  You are sitting quietly, waiting for me to start my lesson.  You have your pen and pencil out and your book open, which will help you to learn about Shakespeare in today’s lesson.

Praise has its roots in both the behaviourist approach and the cognitive approach to education (learning is shaped by internal and external factors) making references to conditional theories such as Pavlov’s (1927) Classical Conditioning Theory and Skinner (1943) Optional Conditional Theory.

Towards A Speaking Frame

It is very difficult to create a one size fits all framework for praise but there are four general steps:

  1. Acknowledge
  2. Identify
  3. State (Justify)
  4. Attribute


It is important to acknowledge who you are talking about.  For example, the whole school, the year group, the class, a learning group within the class or an individual student. For the individual student, you need to know if identifying them by name will deactivate them from learning or create an ignition point for conflict.


You need to identify the desired behaviour or the behaviour which you like (listening, waiting, writing, walking, using please and thank, putting their hand up). This may be linked to whole class targets (learning and behaviour) or individual learning targets (IBP, IEP, Statement). This is a critical stage in praise as it is important for the student to know what you are praising them for so that they can do it again.

State (Justify)

State why the behaviour was rewarded using a compound sentence (because).  I say using a compound sentence because it is not enough to highlight the behaviour, you also need to justify the behaviour, which in turn will give authenticity to the praise (reward).  Now, an issue here is the learning needs of the student and the appropriate expectations.  Is it reasonable to expect a student with ADHA to sit still and quietly for five minutes?  Is it reasonable to expect a dyslexia student to read a paragraph out loud to the whole class from a textbook?


Attributing success is identifying how the behaviour has helped them to achieve e.g. a higher grade, advanced their learning in some way or reflects their value as a person (promotes social, emotional, attitude). This is the part of verbal praise which is often left out.

In conclusion, I have suggested that Praise is a reward and that students respond differently to rewards, linking to behaviourist and cognitivist theory of reward. I then proposed a framework which can be used to develop verbal praise within the classroom.

Visualising Assessment Words, Blooms Taxonomy, Objectives and Essay Titles

Part of the Visualising Education Blog Series

Updated: 15th Nov 2016

Please remember that I am not an English teacher and this is an exploration of a quick and dirty method of developing a student’s writing skills.


Since the mid 90’s I have been using the mobile comparison table to teach essay writing. More recently, my teaching colleagues have been adopting the same approach to support their students in understanding how to write their assessments or achieve lesson objectives. What is great about this approach is that it is accessible to all and can be used with any subject, as it is transferable. I have outlined my approach below, using learning objectives and tables.

First I identify the phones and keywords (figure one, below) and explain to the students that all their assessed work will include an analysis, evaluation and justification. This creates a growth mind-set by encouraging them to think about higher grades.





Compare and Contrast





Figure one) Pictures of phones and keywords


I explore with the students what each keyword means, keeping it very simple by using the following:

IdentifyMake a list.
Compare and contrastWhat is the same and what is different?
AnalyseCompare and contrast – which includes the strengths and weaknesses
EvaluateLink the analysis to a context/ scenario
JustifyMake a recommendation based on the evaluation


Using the following learning objectives, I will demonstrate how I use this approach to scaffold and focus student attention on what is important, thereby increasing the student’s potential to achieve higher grades and improved writing skills. I also regularly reinforce this method within my teaching, learning and assessment.


Objective: Identify the features, functions and properties of two mobile phones

I use a very quick and simple process to help the students achieve the objective by creating a comparison table (see table one), which you find on most shopping websites. This creates a visual learning episode for the students and structures their thinking. It also allows the teacher to quickly assess student understanding of the keywords within the learning objective. The activity can be restricted to identifying three items for a) features, b) functions and c) properties. Students can then readily demonstrate their understanding of the keywords.


Table One: Identify the features, functions and properties of two mobile phones

FeaturesFunctionsPropertiesPhone OnePhone Two


Objective: Compare and contrast the features, functions and properties of two mobile phones

By completing table one, the student’s learning has been scaffolded.  This will also act as a reference or checklist which the students can use when comparing and contrasting the two mobile phones. For example, the teacher’s learning instruction may be; ‘From your table, compare and contrast three features, three functions and three properties.’  This might look something like this:

Phone one has a keypad, whereas phone two projects the keys onto a touch screen. Also, phone two can send emails but phone one cannot. However, both phones have a plastic body.

At this stage, I would spend a lot of time talking about how words determine the students’ overall grade. For example, by using the word ‘however’ or ‘but’, you are signalling to the reader that you are about to create an argument.


Objective: Analyse the features, functions and properties of two mobile phones

The analysis could be considered as part three and is about adding the strengths and weaknesses to the compare and contrast content. To extend the table (see table two), you can add two additional columns; strengths and weaknesses.


Table Two: Analyse the features, functions and properties of two mobile phones

FeaturesPhone OnePhone TwoStrengthsWeaknesses
  • Can be visually seen
  • Letter on each key
  • Location never changes
  • Keys fall off
  • Key stops working
  • Lettering fades


I have learnt/observed over the years that it is important to focus on getting the students to integrate the strengths and weaknesses, rather than writing separate paragraphs. This integration helps the students to develop their writing skills quicker. The analysis may look like this:

Phone one has a keypad which can be seen and felt by the user. The position of the keys never change, whereas phone two projects the keys onto a touch screen which allows the phone to be rotated, or the button size to be changed. However, the use of a keypad could result in the keys falling off, letter fading or even stop working, whereas the lettering never fades on the touch screen, although the screen may fail and prevent the keys from working.

At this stage, I ask the students to use a highlighting pen to emphasise all the signalling words in their own work. This allows the students to recognise the effect of keywords in their own work; prompting them to write at a higher level.  This is a really good peer marking activity.


Objective: Evaluate the features, functions and properties of two mobile phones

To evaluate we need a context or situation:  in this case, who will use the mobile phone and for what purpose? This is about two main factors a) the user needs and b) the environmental needs, see table three. The student also needs to consider the strengths and weaknesses of the features, functions and properties of the mobile phone, see table two.

Simply, the evaluation is an extension of the analysis, as the analysis is an extension of the comparison. Using this concept, quickly allows the student to develop and refine their understanding of the required writing skills.


Table three: evaluate the features, functions and properties of two mobile phones

Blind personEveryday life, Two children, Office workerKeypad vs. touchscreen
  • Can be visually seen
  • Letter on each key
  • Location never changes
  • Keys fall off
  • Key stops working
  • Lettering fades


An example of an evaluation may look like this:

Phone one has a keypad which can be seen and felt by the user. The position of the keys never change, whereas phone two projects the keys onto a touch screen which allows the phone to be rotated or the button size to be changed. For a blind user, being able to feel the shape of the key and knowing its position is the strength of the keypad phone.  However, the use of a keypad could result in the keys falling off, letters fading or even failure to work, whereas the lettering never fades on the touch screen but the screen may fail, preventing the keys from working. For a blind user, the lettering fading is not a concern and both phones could experience a failure to accept an input. It is worth considering that phone two can convert voice to text, thus, removing the need to press a key or use a touch screen.


Objective: Justify the features, functions and properties of two mobile phones

Justification or recommendation is an extension to evaluation, just as analysis is an extension to the comparison. You cannot recommend or make a judgement without first analysing the two phones. This justification or recommendation can be integrated within the paragraph(s) or written as a separate paragraph(s). For example:

It is recommended that if the user is able to use phone two, with a touch screen, then they should opt for this phone as it offers more features and functions, which can be used to speed the communication process. It also offers a wider range of features and functions, which allow the user to engage with their two children. However, if the user cannot use the touch screen than the keypad is a good alternative.


Now consider reading these:

Visualising Intervention – Pre & Post Assessment

How can we show that non-teacher intervention is working in school

Note: this article is based on working practice during 2005

Part of the Visualising Education Blog Series

It is clear that current and future developments within the education system are focused on using data to prove that change has taken place.  However, the question is what change or changes will support influence judgments about support staff. Personally, I believe that support staff should not be solely judged on the learners’ academic performance.  Support staff deliver a range of interventions aim at different areas of the learner’s holistic development e.g. behavioural, social and educational development (BSED).  Thus, the support worker performance or impact should be judged against the stated needs of the learner, creating three categories of performance or assessment which inferences three core skillsets wrapped in a clear understanding of pedagogical practice.

The biggest issue facing government, schools and support workers is how to show that the taxpayer is getting value for money from the pupil premium fund.  All too often this falls back on to the academic changes of the learners who have been supported by a support worker(s) which is funded by this pot of money. However, research from across the developed world shows that this is not a valid method of proving support workers impact.

There is a shift, back to the pre and post-baseline assessment of learners to show that intervention has made a difference to the individual child and young person.  The approach is a simple idea and can show progress in the learner’s development, which in turn can be used to argue that these developments have contributed to any academic improvements of the learner and those learners who share the learning environment, especially if the principal issue is behavioural or disruption.

Figure one shows the mean average of all intervention over one-half term (about six weeks) of 80 students using the Jane McSherry  Coping in School Survey. The graph has five sections and each section has five bars (columns) where the first three columns are indicator columns and the last two columns indicate the mean scores for pre-intervention and post-intervention.

Average Intervention Gains - Mean
Figure1) Average Intervention Gains – Mean – CISS Assessment

It can be seen that all sections or skillsets have achieved a mean increase after the half term intervention, except for the skillset ‘self and others.’ This was a consistent trend and only showed a marginal increase over the year. Even after focused changes to the intervention methods used to targeting this skillset. I would also like to draw your attention to the ‘self-management and behaviour’ skillset. The gains in this skillset were always consistently low.  Suggesting that intervention in these two skillsets needs to be specific and enduring which in turn needs to be reflected in any performance assessment of support workers.

This overarching data can inform areas like:

  • The deployment of support workers (based on the support worker skillsets) in relation to the learners specific needs
  • The training and CPD needs of the support staff to target weak areas
  • The overall impact or difference that the support team has had over that half term

WARNING: Finally, take a moment to consider which assessment you are using to show the impact of the support team.  There are many different assessments which test many different aspects of the learner and equally have different copyright conditions. Be very clear about what you want the assessment to show.  For example, if you want the assessment to show the learners attitude to school and learning then there is no point completing a self-esteem test.

Once you have selected an assessment you now need to consider the ethical and moral issues around implementing it. If you have chosen an assessment used by health professionals to support mental health assessment and your data shows that the learner is severely depressed, what will the school put in place to support that child to guard against liability or even worse, self-harm. Also, do you have the (ethical) right to implement the assessment without informed consent from the parent and/ or the child.

Part of the Visualising Education Blog Series

Visualising Intervention – Action Plans

How can we show that non-teacher intervention is working in school

Note: this article is based on working practice during 2005

Part of the Visualising Education Blog Series

The action plan is a simple idea and work well in helping children and young people structure their learning week.  A typical action plan will include the follow:

  • Student name
  • Student class or year group
  • Intervention workers name
  • Date of completion
  • Comment box
  • Student signature
  • Intervention worker signature

However, this approach does not allow for quantitative analysis or the visualisation of the results, making it real for the student and usable to impact statistics.  The following action plan was designed to capture the student’s achievements in a numeric form, see Figure 1 below.

Figure 1) The action plan

This action plan contains two reviews, week one and week two.  It was purposefully design like this to allow the student to see the difference between the two weeks.  This approach also reduced our printing and paper costs as the action plan could print both side of the A4 paper, allowing for four weeks of action planning to be recorded on one piece of paper.

The scores were transferred into a spreadsheet which had formulas and functions to automatically generate graphs.  These graphs work well with the students as it allowed them to physically see any changes between the action planning meetings.  The graphs were used during parent meetings, student progress meetings and external stakeholders meetings, which had a significant positive impact on stakeholders’ engagement.

At the end of each intervention period (every half term) a copy of the graph would be sent home to the parents, to the student’s form tutor and year manager promoting transparency and home-school communication. For many students on the intervention team caseload (BSED and SEN Statements) this approach increased students organisation skills, such as bring pens, homework and the school planner.  A point which I make in my book, if most of the school population do not bring their school planner on a daily basis then why fight with some of the most difficult students in school to achieve above and beyond what the average school student  is doing.  This type of intervention is about finding ways of making these students feeling successful, so focus on the pen first!  Hard mentoring can be used with a much greater effect with students who are successful within school.

Initially, the action plan was completed directly on the computer but the students did not like it, they preferred the convenience of the paper copy and the much more comfy chairs!  However, I suspect that the advent of android tablets and touchscreen computing would allow this process more readily.  We missed a trick with this data as we only used it to produce the progression graph.  We could have used the data to show the percentage of increase in areas such as attendance, homework and bringing equipment across the cohort.

In conclusion, the action plan served as useful function in tracking, monitoring and promoting student organisation and engagement within the system but offered little influence outside the intervention meeting.  Any change within the learning environment was related to the student-intervention worker professional relationship making this a qualitative measure and hard to quantitatively capture.  We overcame this barrier by developing a credit system; see Visualising Intervention – Intervention Credits.

This blog is based on extracts from this book: A Practical Guide To Inclusion: A Manual For Implementation and Delivery


Part of the Visualising Education Blog Series

Visualising Intervention – Intervention Credits

How can we show that non-teacher intervention is working in school

Note: this article is based on working practice during 2005

Part of the Visualising Education Blog Series

As a team providing personalised intervention for more than eighty students across key stage three (age 11-13yrs) we faced the same problems as most researchers who explore this sector, quantitative evidence of student improvement.  Qualitatively, the intervention was making a difference which was observable within the learning experience.  However, this left the department (learning support) and staff, open to the usual comments regarding performance and ability.

Then my brother (Tim Campbell) showed me a kid’s pocket (cheque) book which had different activities on each page.  The idea was the child would request the activity and when the activity took place they handed over the page or cheque.  The epiphany, I quickly realised that this idea could be used to provide the quantitative evidence demonstrating that the intervention staff were making a difference to the children and young people across the school.

Figure 1) The mentoring cheque


How Did We Use Them

The intervention worker (mentor, learning support worker or teaching assistant) was responsible for making sure that the student had access to their (intervention) credits.  This was fairly easy as each target was printed in batches of five as we could get five cheques on one side of an A4 piece of paper.  This allowed for two chequebooks to be created on each print run.

The student received their personalised chequebook which contained about nine cheques or three cheques for each of the student’s intervention targets taken from their intervention plan (IBP, IEP, SEN Statement etc…).  This was a deliberate approach as it allowed the school/ department to compare students’ success against pre-defined targets, which introduced data transparency.

The number of cheques for a given target depended on how successful the student was at achieving them.  For example, a target which the student found hard to achieve would have three to five cheques but we left in cheques which the student could easily achieve to ensure the continuing feeling of success.

Given the nature of the caseload students (BESD or SEN Statemented) it was decided that it was the student responsibility to get the cheque signed not the teachers or teaching assistants.  To promote this idea and increase the engagement with the chequebook we introduced prizes.  It was quickly realised that the prizes had to be well defined as students would use any gaps to get more credits or more rewards.  To overcome this, a standardised list was created with the required credit points and times which the item could be accessed (break, dinner, after school).  The standardised list also included items like pens and pencils for only a few credits which supported well for students who had poor organisational skills.

Based on previous observations and experience it was discovered that systems which mirrored the behavioural system, led to very low engagement levels.   As a result of this, the team went to great lengths to separate this credit scheme from the behavioural system.  Presenting the credit scheme at the whole school staff training, teachers were directed not to request or remind the students about their chequebook and be honest and fair about the student performance during the lesson.  Most importantly, do not treat the credit scheme as a punishment.

The Bank (data collection)

When the credits were returned by the student their name, target, subject and date were entered in a spreadsheet which had formulas and functions allowing it to automatically update the student’s scores and the overall success graph.   This allowed the student to experience instant gratification.  At the end of each day a new vertical bar chart, listing all the targets and their frequency was printed and displayed on the wall immediately outside the intervention team office and the staffroom.  This had a major positive impact on the students’ motivation levels.  For some students they could see that they were having a positive experience within the school and that they were contributing to the school as a whole, others used it as a competition between friends.  For a few, it acted as a catalyst for a change in behaviour.

This approach to quantitative data gathering allowed the inclusion department to highlight how much impact the provided intervention was having within each department and across the school.  More importantly, this allowed the teaching staff to visualise who school intervention based on students targets.  Recording the data also allowed the intervention team to track and change targets when the student was continually successful.

How Successful Was It

In my considered opinion, this approach to tracking and accessing intervention success was the most efficient and effective approach that we tried over the five years which I was at the school.  To highlight this, of the eighty students on the intervention caseload we took 28 (35%) of them to the cinema which was worth 200 credits.  This means that each student had to achieve their target(s) 200 times or 6.6 targets per day, one each lesson plus a spare.  When you multiply this by 28 (students) the intervention had 5600 instances of success over that half term period.

Now read this post:  Visualising Intervention – Action Plan.

This blog is based on extracts from this book: A Practical Guide To Inclusion: A Manual For Implementation and Delivery


Part of the Visualising Education Blog Series