Trust in education

Trust in the school context, especially around the use of technology.

Archive for the tag “students”

Trusting that students will say something nice

The school that my children attend prides itself on its community “feel” and the character of its students.  On the whole I agree.

Happy students from another school.

      Happy students from another school

A couple of the most telling examples from over the years:

  • The applause that went on and on and on and on for the senior student who was given an award for having achieved despite difficult circumstances.  This student’s father had died during his senior year.
  •  The guest’s at my son’s 16th birthday party, sitting around a fire pit and singing.  A 16th birthday party could have been a lot worse…
  • The time I chanced upon a group of students on campus at the end of an open day.  Most visitors had left.  One of the students had his back to me and didn’t know I was nearing the group on my way out.  He was describing something which had happened and his description included some swearing. I don’t think the students recognised me as a current parent of the school and his comments were intended for his peers’ ears only.  The students who could see me gave him meaningful looks and he turned in some confusion and noticed me and realised that I had heard his words.  Maybe I should have been offended.  I don’t enjoy listening to “f words” but what had the most impact on me was the look on his face which clearly showed his disappointment in himself.  If he had said it in words, I don’t think he could have any more clearly expressed the sense that he had let down himself, his peers and his school.

I do understand why schools ban students from discussing or posting about school happenings on social media.  They fear for their reputations if a bad impression is given and we all know that a social media post can have a wide reach.

The trouble is that the good things happening often go unnoticed for fear of the bad things that might get too much notice.

Yesterday my daughter, along with her classmates, worked to put together birthing kits.

Image courtesy of adrielbooker.com

Image courtesy of adrielbooker.com

She told me that she thought it was possibly the “coolest thing she had ever done”.  She was touched by having been able to do something which would help someone so directly.  I’m sure some of her friends felt the same.  Wouldn’t it have been cool if she could have snapchatted or Facebooked it.

The students’ characters, the school’s values and the cause they’re working for would all have got some great publicity.

If we teach digital citizenship, can we trust our students to say positive things?

Dig Cit 2

 

 

 

 

Dig cit

Photo credits:

Prinnie Stevens, Mahalia Barnes

Trusting badges

Earning badges for achievements is nothing new. Organisations like Scouts and Guides have been doing it for years.

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Digital badging is newer.

Openbadges

With the rise of MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses), there has been a rise in the use of digital badges as a recognition of the holder ‘s achievement and a proof that the holder has done what he/she claims to have done, although the use of badges is not confined to MOOCs.

Grant and Shawgo  have annotated a bibliography of sources which offer information and opinions on different aspects of the badge system.

A major issue associated with the badge system is the notion of trust, i.e. whether an employer or person authorised to grant accreditation for prior learning can trust the validity of a badge and the rigour of the learning behind it.

So far there is little evidence of the badge system in use in Australian schools although schools of distance education are diversifying their offerings beyond the traditional provision for remote students.  In time a badge will perhaps replace a certificate upon completion of the course.

Proponents envision a robust, valuable and open system of accreditation.  Leslie (2013) writes, “the value of the system overall increases as more nodes join and a large, robust network emerges over time”.

I have been experimenting with badges in the classroom this year – they’re not digital and they’re linked to behaviour outcomes rather than academic outcomes.  The primary school system in Australia is not quite ready for that yet!

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Our classroom system works this way:

  1. Students earn a card for displaying a particular behaviour that I want to encourage (e.g. good listening, following instructions, being kind to someone)
  2. When a student has five cards the same, they “cash them in” to earn a badge which they display on their desk.  They also earn a sticker for their chart which is the school wide reward system.
  3. Another five cards earns a badge of a different colour, which is higher in value.  Bronze is followed by silver, then gold, platinum, pearl, emerald…

Trust is involved when:

  • I tell a student that he/she has earned a card and they collect it from the box on my desk at a convenient time.  I am probably not near the box when they collect the cards.IMG_0084
  • A student cashes in their cards and writes on a post-it note which badge they have earned.  Again, I am probably not near the box so I don’t see how many cards they have deposited or what type they are.

The system is ripe for abuse but very little is happening.  I have assumed that I can trust the children in my care and I believe they have acted in a trustworthy way because the non-tangible rewards for being trusted are better that the tangible rewards for betraying trust.

 

Photo credits:

“US Navy 081004-N-5345W-021 Cub Scouts prepare to parade the colors” by U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kristopher S. Wilson – This Image was released by the United States Navy with the ID 081004-N-5345W-021 Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:US_Navy_081004-N-5345W-021_Cub_Scouts_prepare_to_parade_the_colors.jpg#mediaviewer/File:US_Navy_081004-N-5345W-021_Cub_Scouts_prepare_to_parade_the_colors.jpg

“Openbadges” by Anyashy – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Openbadges.png#mediaviewer/File:Openbadges.png

Cats and dogs as parents

 

On one level, this is just a funny clip about the differences between cats and dogs.  On another level, it says something about parenting and how we teach our children to view the world.

The dog in this clip patiently encourages its young, never far away while the puppy attempts to descend the scary staircase.

The cat just pushes its kitten down the stairs.

Of course, we only see the cats briefly.  The mother cat may have tried the other options first.

I remember gently but firmly pushing my daughter (then aged about 8) onto a chairlift because I’d tried all the encouraging talk and she was still hesitating.  I knew she was a child who sometimes did just need a push to try something new.

Teachers sometimes see parents who act a bit like the dog mother as she tries to walk down the stairs over the top of the puppy – helicopter parents or smother mothers – who try to shield their child from everything that could go wrong and rescue them from their bad decisions so that they never have to face the consequences.

They justify their actions to themselves and others as just protective parenting.  They say that they are only seeking justice and fairness when they question why their child is being punished for something he or she did at school or why he or she didn’t get a better mark for a piece of assessment.

It’s true that teachers sometimes make unfair judgements – usually in the absence of all the evidence.  It’s true that marking across classes and schools is not completely equal, no matter how hard we try.  Occasionally even the most reserved parent needs to step in and ask questions.  Teachers, however, are professionals who in most cases make decisions thoughtfully.

It’s also true that as parents we generally want to believe that our children would not do the wrong thing – not punch a classmate, not lie to a teacher about what happened in the playground, not break the school rules –but if we are honest we have to admit that children (just like adults) sometimes make bad choices.

We will not always be there to rescue our children from the consequences of their actions.  If my adult daughter gets angry with her boss and swears at her and gets fired, I can’t step in to complain that she was provoked and the boss is unfair.  If my adult son doesn’t get the promotion he really wanted because he hasn’t been working as hard as someone else, it will do me no good to ring the employer and argue about why he deserves to get it.

And sometimes, life is just unfair.  People invest money which is subsequently lost by the actions of con artists or the whims of the stock market; women who have done nothing wrong suffer domestic violence; jobs can be hard to find; people contract chronic or terminal diseases.

Children need to start developing resilience while they are young and part of that is learning how to cope with the knocks, setbacks and disappointments that life brings – deserved or undeserved.

It is said that it takes a village to raise a child.  Once we have found the village to help us raise our children, we parents need to place some trust in the other members of that village. Sometimes they might push our kitten down the stairs (metaphorically, not literally!) but maybe that is what our kitten needs.

Messy Learning involves trust

Scared to try something new

I happened to overhear a conversation in the staff room.  I wasn’t eavesdropping.  The teacher sharing it obviously trusted her fellow teachers but wouldn’t have wanted the principal to hear.

She thought the principal had her in mind to lead an initiative at the school.  There had been a few conversations between them about the prospect and she had “evidence” that he had been testing her proficiency in the particular skills needed.

Because of those skills she was a natural choice but it wasn’t something she had done before and she didn’t want to do it.

She knew (because he had said so) that the principal was staking his reputation on the success of the initiative and felt she would be blamed if it didn’t work, even if she had tried her hardest.

Failure has to be an option

If something new is being attempted, failure has to be an option for the people involved to be willing and comfortable to trust.

This is part of what is sometimes called “messy learning”.

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Here’s an example of one small messy learning moment.  A few days ago in class we were making periscopes.  One boy was determined that he could use a different construction method and it would still work.  I wasn’t convinced but when I saw his confidence and enthusiasm I said, “OK.  Give it a go.”  It did work and he was pleased with himself.  If it hadn’t worked I hope he still would have felt comfortable about it and would have continued experimenting to make it work.

Messy learning doesn’t always mean instant success but when it’s well planned and scaffolded, it often leads to deep learning and for students a by-product of that is often academic success.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/edrethink/8253117849/”>John Spencer – EdRethink</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Autonomy equals trust

Management isn’t about walking around and seeing if people are in their offices…It’s about creating conditions for people to do their best work.

I’ve just read management “expert” Dan Pinks book Drive. The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.  I also heard him speak at the EduTech Conference in June and found his ideas and insights inspiring.

Dan Pink offers insights into rewards and motivation.

Dan Pink offers insights into rewards and motivation.

Pink has investigated research around motivation and rewards and come up with some conclusions which apply equally well to schools as they do to businesses.

Schools often operate on the system Pink calls Motivation 2.0, the traditional “sticks and carrots” approach where good results and behaviour are rewarded and bad results and behaviour are punished.  (Motivation 1.0 was the system our earliest ancestors operated under – otherwise known as survival.)

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Pink asserts that Motivation 2.0 doesn’t usually work and that what works better is Motivation 3.0 which is framed around the principles of autonomy, mastery and purpose.

He believes that we do our best work when:

  • we have autonomy to work the way that suits us best,
  • a sense that we are striving to master the skills involved in our work and
  • we understand and believe in the purpose for what we are doing.

Have a look at this RSA Animate about Drive.

It seems to me that autonomy is much the same thing as trust.

If your boss, your principal, your teacher are giving you the freedom to choose your task, your time, your team and your technique, then they are placing trust in you.

Sometimes the structures of school make it hard to implement systems based on trust and autonomy.

For example, how can we give students autonomy over their tasks when assessment has to have some sort of standardisation?  How can we give them autonomy over their time when the school day operates on a timetable?

Pink has some suggestions, and the advent of MOOCs and BYOT seems to offer other opportunities to tinker with the system a bit.

What about systems that let teachers do their best work?

Do inspections and carrot rewards for high student achievement lead to teachers feeling motivated and trusted?

Photo credits:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/nathalie_magniez/4659568903/

https://www.facebook.com/danielhpink/photos_stream

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