In a “Nutshell:”
This is one tool you’ll wonder how you ever taught without!
A big problem
The start of the school year brings many challenges. One of the greatest, and most daunting for many of us is quickly building that engaged, well-behaved classroom community that leaves you feeling in control of your classroom. A lot of teachers Iâ€™ve spoken to have struggled with this – and given how much theory there is out there about how to manage and improve behavior: intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation, PBIS, RTI, Alfie Kohn, Doug Lemov, Lee Cantor – its amazing just how few tools there are available to help with it. In fact, struggling with classroom behavior is often cited as a big reason teachers leave teaching, and is what a lot of instructional time in class ends up being spent on. I found that the term â€˜classroom managementâ€™ (or â€˜behavior managementâ€™) masks many, many sub-issues. Here are just four that kept coming up:
- Engaging students is painful: too often new teachers get met with blank faces and disengaged students, and have to go through a long, painful process to engage them. Whatâ€™s more, low motivation and engagement in class have consistently been linked to increased dropout rates and reduced levels of student success.
- Even where teachers have successful strategies, these create a lot of admin work both in and out of class: administering these systems in the classroom (e.g. moving cards and marbles around in class) and out of it (e.g. entering data – if at all – on to spreadsheets etc) distracts from instructional time, and adds work after school. In many cases, the extra work means data doesnâ€™t get recorded: the lack of data generated by these systems makes it difficult to effect permanent improvements in behavior over time.
- Most tools focus too much on the negative: these tools make ‘behavior’ equate to ‘discipline’. Rather than allowing teachers to focus on building the positives, they enforce a focus on logging referrals: by which point its too late to intervene effectively.
- Time-consuming for teachers to engage parents and administrators: engaging parents and other teachers becomes a chose, involving lots of phone calls or emails, and sucking up a lot of time after school.
One solution: ClassDojo
- Engaging students easily: ClassDojo allows teachers to recognise positive behaviors and accomplishments and provide real-time feedback instantly in class. It also has engaging visuals that set up engaging real-time feedback loops that encourage students exhibit desirable behaviors, and build intrinsic motivation over time.
- Reducing admin work in and out of class: teachers can award or take away points for desirable behaviors or accomplishments with one touch of a smartphone or laptop button: there is no additional data entry required, and it is all done in real-time. This allows teachers to actually get real-time data on what’s happening in their class, allowing them, for the first time, to objectively track and improve behavior – it feels a bit like magic.
- Focusing on the positive: ClassDojo actively focuses teachers on the positives, allowing teachers to track and improve positive behavior over time, rather than waiting for a referral to happen. ClassDojo is also completely customizable to specific classrooms or activities.
- Engaging parents and administrators: ClassDojo automatically creates behavior reports, charts and analytics, and allows teachers to share these with parents, students and administrators with just one click – eliminating the need for laborious emails and phone calls.
Talking to the ClassDojo team, they tell me that they realized that behavior management is in fact a subset of something much bigger: building positive character. In fact, extensive research by Nobel prize-winning economist James Heckman (read more here) suggests that building character – and in particular, the ability to control oneself (cf the Stanford marshmallow experiments!) – is the key to really, really huge improvements in a whole slew of socioeonomics indicators: from average income, to health outcomes, to incidence of substance abuse, to likelihood of criminal prosecutions: multiple studies* have shown that self-control is one of the single biggest predictors of these in later life, have shown these findings too. The good news is: self-control can be built – ClassDojoâ€™s big vision is to fix this neglected ‘other half’ of education: they want to make it easy for parents, teachers and students to measure, track and build the â€˜intangiblesâ€™ – like self-control – that are even more important than good grades for academic and lifetime success (and incidentally, are critical for improving grades, too!).
* Including the HighScope Perry pre-school programme, and the Dunedin studies by Professor Terrie Moffitt.
Some background on us: