At Churchill, we believe a student’s attitude to learning is the biggest determining factor in the progress they will make with us. All students, no matter what their ability or level of attainment, can demonstrate attitudes to learning which will maximise their chances of success.
Attitudes to Learning: where we were
Over the past few years, we have graded attitudes to learning as either Highly Motivated, Engaged, Passive or Disengaged, using the grid you can see here. During the last academic year, we reviewed this system. There were many positives: the focus on attitude to learning was a good one, and the system allowed us to track improvements or declines in attitudes to learning over time. The descriptors we were using were grounded in actual behaviours that students should show, and teachers could observe.
However, students told us that there were too many descriptors: it was really hard to pick out just what to work on next from the large array of criteria. This also meant that attitude to learning grades were quite blunt instruments: they were a “best fit” chosen from a wide range of possible behaviours. Finally, many parents found the headings imprecise: what does “passive” mean? The Academy thinks being passive is not good enough – but this did not necessarily carry across for all students or parents.
As a result, Directors of Faculty and Heads of House worked with Senior Leaders to redevelop the attitude to learning system. The aim was to come up with something simpler and easier to apply and understand, but which would still allow us to track improvements or declines in student attitudes over time. At the same time, we wanted to “raise the bar” in terms of our expectations of students’ approaches to their learning.
Introducing: Effort Grades
The result of this review is our new Effort Grades system. At each reporting point (three times per year), students will receive an effort grade from each subject. They will receive one of four grades: Excellent, Good, Insufficient, or Poor. The system is explained in the student planner on pages 13 and 14. There is also a dedicated page on our website which explains the effort grade system and, earlier this term, I prepared a video assembly for all the students to watch:
Excellent effort means being committed to getting the most out of all learning opportunities available. It is what all students should aim for. A student making excellent effort:
- Excellent participation in the lesson at all times, and is fully engaged;
- Actively seeks and responds to feedback on how to improve the quality of their work;
- Shows great determination and views setbacks and mistakes as opportunities to learn and grow;
- Manages their time and work efficiently and is an excellent role model who is highly disciplined;
- Uses their initiative in a range of situations without always having to be told what to do;
- Shows dedication and enthusiasm for learning at all times.
Good effort means being a responsible and hardworking student who tries their best all of the time. A student making good effort:
- Shows a good interest in their learning and is attentive and focused;
- Responds well to feedback and targets and completes work to the expected standard;
- Shows determination and is willing to persevere when things are difficult;
- Takes responsibility for their work and is well organised;
- Willingly does all that is asked of them and sometimes more.
Insufficient effort means that a student is probably doing most of what they are supposed to do but is failing to push themselves or make the most of the opportunities available. A student making insufficient effort:
- Often participates in lessons and is generally focused and well behaved;
- May not try hard enough to improve their work after feedback;
- Is usually well organised but does the minimum that is asked of them and not much more;
- Might make a Good level of effort some of the time but this is not consistent.
Poor effort means that a student needs support or intervention to become a more responsible learner. A student making poor effort:
- Makes little effort to be involved in the lesson and may disrupt the learning of others instead;
- Fails to act on feedback provided and as a result may not make much progress;
- Is not interested in being challenged and will give up without really trying;
- Spends an inadequate amount of time on tasks and may produce poor work as a result;
- Takes little or no responsibility for their own learning or behaviour;
- Effort is frequently a cause for concern.
We aim to use our Effort Grades to help students develop their attitude to learning. Effort grades are sent home with each report, and used by tutors to set targets for improvement. Above all, they are there to clearly explain how we expect our students to approach their studies. Because, in the end, it is the students themselves who do the learning – and the more consistent effort they put in, the greater the reward in the end.