A formula for good behaviour
14 Sept 2015
Ah, for the quick fix to classroom behaviour.
Everyone seems to say that behaviour gets worse and worse: and you may remember that in June the first behaviour tsar was appointed to try to nationalise the feeling. Now he's been set on looking at the impact of mobile phones on behaviour, among other things. The DfE helpfully reminds us that "appropriately used, technology can offer opportunities to enhance the educational experience of pupils" but then goes on to claim that "that the growing number of children bringing personal devices into class is hindering teaching and leading to disruption".
Is it? And does it affect learning more than anything else? The Centre for Economic Performance carried out an interesting study earlier this year, looking a pupil performance data in around 50 schools which had imposed a ban and compared them to those which hadn't. The comparisons weren't entirely reliable and the whole study was very much a statistical exercise. The highlight for me being the following formula:
I can't profess to have taken enough interest in the methodology to understand what this equation is trying to achieve, but it's probably enough to put most teachers off taking the findings seriously: these kinds of studies tend to make us feel that the researchers have no idea about what goes on in the classroom if they think that this kind of number crunching can be used to solve behaviour problems.
So, do mobile phones affect performance? Well, it could be argued that, if you remove any distractions from children, especially lower attaining ones, they will do better. The application of the above formula to the the data on the 50 schools apparently suggests that it's the case for phones, but doesn't compare it to any other strategies, such as uniform policies, use of merits vs detention etc (though it does attempt to filter them out). Nor does it look to see if the productive use of phones as a resource for learning has a counter-balancing positive impact.
Personally, I'd prefer my own children to have a phone with them, or a least on the journey between home and school, and would like to think that their teachers would have the authority to tell the class to put them away or get them out as appropriate. If teachers can't manage this, they're not likely to have much control generally, so whether the children have a phone or not is immaterial, I'd say. Let's focus on supporting teachers in the classroom and not get distracted by this trivia.
PS: could we look instead, Mrs Morgan, please, at how to support schools using mobile phones - the biggest tech revolution in history - to improve learning.