Action Research Area: Different uses of secret student to engage pupils
Researchers: V.Turner and M.John (Primrose Hill C of E Academy)
Context: Years 5 and 6, all subject areas but with a particular focus on English and PE
Method 1: A new student is picked at random daily to be Secret Student. All teachers, supply teachers and TAs involved in their learning are aware of who they are, and observe their behaviours and attitudes throughout the day in accordance with the success criteria which the children were involved in creating. If the student is successful, the teacher reveals who it was and why they have been successful, with examples of criteria being met throughout the day and a sweet is put in the jar. If the student was not successful, the class is informed but the student remains anonymous. Once the jar is full, the sweets are shared around the class.
Method 2: During group work within specific lessons (PE and English), one secret student is chosen per group. The children are aware of this and observations are made as above, with the added criteria of good teamwork, compromise etc.
For most children, having secret student has made individuals aware of their own and other’s behaviour and attitudes to learning. At the end of each day, or lesson, the children are asked, had they been secret student, would they have been successful and why. This has encouraged self-reflection and they refer to the SPLAT criteria, giving examples of when these have been achieved. Sometimes, children are asked who they think might have been successful and why. This has not only developed their self and peer assessment skills but has deepened their understanding of what is needed to be successful in their learning, enabling them to reach their full potential.
We felt that it was essential to involve the children in developing the success criteria for secret student. This helped the children to fully understand what successful learning behaviour is and why it is important. Through discussion, the children decided upon the resulting SPLAT criteria:
• Seek help when needed
• Positive, persevering and proud
• Listen, and follow instructions
• Always do the best I can and be the best I can be
• Thoughtful, helpful and considerate
Overall, we have seen an improvement in engagement with learning and behaviour. The children seem to really care about the sweet in the jar at the end of the day (although the reward obviously could be something else that accumulates such as a marble in the jar) and give a round of applause to the successful student. Students have reported that they feel proud when they find out they have been successful. They are disappointed when they don’t get it . We have heard comments such as, “It must have been me because…” or “ I think it was …… because…” The most pleasing change has been hearing the children reflecting on their learning behaviour and the change in attitude of pupils whose behaviour needed improving.
Children are conscious that their behaviour is not just for their own benefit, but also how it affects their class or group. This has linked well with our core values of Trust, Respect and Friendship.
*We are pleased with the overall outcomes that the Secret Student enquiry has generated without incurring increased workload.
*We are happy with how the children have embraced the idea of Secret Student and how it has made them more aware of their learning.
/ We feel that Secret Student can be developed further and used in different ways to keep it exciting and fresh.