Attitude to Learning: Effort Grades

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:

Effort Grades Assembly: September 2020

Excellent Effort

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

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

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

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.

Attitude to learning, and why it matters

churchill_academy_attitudes_to_learning

I’ve been sharing my assemblies this week with the wonderful cast of Sweeney Todd, who are preparing for their performances at the Playhouse, Weston-super-Mare, on 26th-28th February (click here for tickets!) Before they steal the show, I have been talking to each house about the importance of attitude to learning, and why it matters.

Attitude to learning is the way we assess and monitor students’ approaches to their studies. The descriptors are used by each teacher to assess students’ attitudes in their classes, and these attitudes are reported home three times a year. We place a great deal of emphasis on attitudes to learning – but why does it matter so much?

example hm report

Over the past three years we have been gathering data on attitudes to learning and comparing it to GCSE progress scores. To do this we convert the attitude to learning grades in each report into a percentage score: all “highly motivated” grades would score 100%, all “disengaged” would score 0%. What we’ve found is that students with average attitude to learning scores over Years 9, 10 and 11 over 80% made an average of three-quarters of a grade better progress than similar students nationally. Students averaging over 90% on attitude to learning made, on average, a whole GCSE grade better progress than similar students nationally.

What I love about this is that everyone can control their attitude to learning. The behaviours listed under “engaged” and “highly motivated” are things that any student can do, if they choose to. It doesn’t matter whether you find learning easy or difficult; if you are getting the top grades or not; or which subjects you enjoy the most: everyone can choose to show that they are engaged or highly motivated in their learning. If students do make those choices, and show consistently good attitudes to learning, they are giving themselves the best possible chance of making exceptional progress. This is the mission for when students return after the half term break: what choices will they make about their attitude to learning?

Behaviour for learning

08_Chapter 8 Figure 3

Churchill Academy & Sixth Form’s Attitude to Learning Scale

This year at Churchill we have made behaviour our number one priority. We wanted to build on our already high standards to ensure the very best behaviour and conduct from all our students, all the time.

In March this year the government published an independent review of behaviour in schools. The report’s author, Tom Bennett, says:

“A student’s experience in school remains one of the most insightful indicators of later life success in any one of a number of metrics. For many it is the best chance they will ever have to flourish. How they conduct themselves at school is crucial to that experience. Helping them develop good behaviour is therefore one of the most important tasks a school faces…

…Whatever one believes the aims of education to be, all of [them] are best realised in schools where good behaviour is the norm, and antisocial, selfish, or self-destructive behaviour is minimised.”

It’s hard to argue with Bennett’s conclusions. Here at Churchill we believe that good behaviour is the foundation upon which a successful education is built. It’s a minimum expectation that students at Churchill will be polite, well-mannered, and tolerant, but we expect not just compliance but active participation in learning and taking responsibility for the choices they make. That’s why we use the Attitude to Learning Scale (pictured above) alongside the Code of Conduct (below) to help our students understand our expectations of them.

ACADEMY CODE OF CONDUCT final-1

Churchill Academy Code of Conduct

The Code of Conduct lays out our expectations of student behaviour in, around and beyond the Academy; the Attitude to Learning Scale helps students understand the things they need to do in lessons to ensure they are making the most of their opportunities to learn and make progress.

Each subject reports on Attitude to Learning in every progress check, but teachers can now reward students for demonstrating “Highly Motivated” attitudes in lessons at any time through our new rewards system. Similarly, whilst students may receive concerns for breaking the Code of Conduct, we are now placing an increased emphasis on giving rewards to those who consistently meet or exceed our expectations. Our aim is to use this positive reinforcement to ensure that those students who behave well consistently are recognised for their part in building a culture where exemplary behaviour and attitude to learning is the norm. It is this interplay between behaviour and attitude to learning that ensures the best chance of success in school.

Our staff and students have responded brilliantly to this new focus. Since the start of the term, our 1481 students have been awarded a staggering 8335 reward points for attitude to learning alone, alongside over 2000 for excellent classwork and homework and 1148 for demonstrating our values of kindness, curiosity and determination or making a contribution to Academy life. In total, across all categories, our students have been awarded 12,794 reward points in three weeks!

It’s safe to say it’s been a good start to the year.