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Transforming teaching - giving teachers the skills to boost pupil performance

Posted on October 12th 2015

An inventive research programme is hoping to improve children’s experiences at school by equipping teachers with fresh approaches to classroom management. Led by researchers at PenCLAHRC and involving over 80 schools across Devon, the STARS project is analysing how teaching methods can impact youngsters’ behaviour and help to create a positive learning environment.

Poor social and emotional skills can affect a child‘s academic attainment and mental health, as well as influencing the life chances of all children in a classroom.

Focusing strongly on reinforcing positive behaviour, the STARS (Supporting Teachers and Children in Schools) project is assessing the impact of a teacher classroom management course developed by Incredible Years® - a U.S. based foundation that has produced interventions for parents, children, and teachers based on 30 years of research.

Over six one-day workshops, the training examines the importance of teacher attention, encouragement and praise, explores the benefits of motivating children through incentives, and highlights ways to reduce inappropriate behaviours. Teachers can discuss their experiences and also develop solutions to specific problems encountered in their own classrooms.

The research team is investigating whether pupils can benefit from teachers attending the course and are looking for improvements in child behaviour, social and emotional competency, enjoyment of school, and academic attainment.

Whilst the final results of the study won’t be available until the middle of 2017, anecdotal feedback is already very promising. Louise Fitzpatrick is a recently qualified teacher who believes her practices have been enhanced by the programme. She says:

“As I spent more time on the training course I could feel my thought process changing. When I was back in the classroom I found it easier to spot all of the wonderful things the children were doing and praise them for that, rather than picking up on negative behaviour.”

Disruptive behaviour is a frequent source of stress among teachers and a common reason for many leaving the profession. The STARS team are eager to see if the training can help alleviate some of this pressure and experienced primary school teacher, Helen Morris, thinks her training is already paying dividends:

“As a result of the training I’ve realised that my stress levels were partly to blame for bad behaviour in the classroom. STARS has given me a number of skills to manage that stress and taught me how to praise and reinforce the behaviour I expect to see from my pupils - helping them to understand and even use that approach themselves.”

Lead researcher on the project, Professor Tamsin Ford, hopes the research will inform future training and teaching practice, she said:

“STARS will provide us with robust evaluation of the teacher classroom management course. Our findings will help us to make evidence-based recommendations on how to provide teachers with the tools to boost the academic performance of their pupils, manage bad behaviour, and improve their own wellbeing.”

You can read more about the STARS project on the project page.

You can watch Professor Tamsin Ford talk about the project, and hear the thoughts of the teachers involved, below:

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