Scaling: A useful tool when dealing with students

one-to-ten2

This blog is a result of a great twitter thread by Ben Newmark on parents’ evening Capture1

As I’m sitting at a parents’ evening right now with a gap its made me reflect on how I’ve used scaling in other ways.

My father is a therapist (of sorts) and showed me the value of using scaling many years ago. He uses it all the time to get a client to give a more valuable answer to the question “How are you?” than the standard “I’m OK.”.

As I said in the tweet the consistent use of scaling in parents evening has been very valuable to me and I will probably do it until the day I retire. I think its important that a student has the opportunity to start the process by giving their opinion. It means they are more likely to actually hear what you have to say because it becomes a two way conversation. It also allows us to anchor conversations about changes in behavior or study skills to a value.

For example;

Me: “Hi Jack, give yourself a score 1 to 10 about how you are getting on in science.”

Jack: “umm 7” (most people pick 7, even numbers seem too predictable, most think they are better than average, but are too modest to say 9)

Me: “Why not a 5?” (you could pick a number higher or lower depending on what you want them to justify)

Jack: “I think I am doing ok, but I could do better”

Me: “Tell me about your test results?”

From here we can move into discussions on results, knowledge gaps, exam technique etc.. for a couple of minutes.

Me: “Ok Jack, so given all  we have discussed, I think you are working at a 6 currently, what I want us to decide is how to get to 8, what of the things we discussed are you going to commit to?”

Jack: “Well I’ll make sure I do my knowledge organiser homework”

Me: “Good that will get you to a 7, what else?”

Jack: “And I’ll make sure I correct all my work in green pen when we go through it”

Me: “Good, that should get it done. I look forward to seeing this new and improved Jack tomorrow in lesson. The sky’s the limit.”

That takes about 5 mins and I feel it has served me well.

Scaling during the register

So much of a students response to a lesson is about the things they bring into the room with them, events out of a teachers control. A while ago, when I was teaching in a much more challenging context than now, I used to get students to answer the register with a number based on how they were feeling today. Most would be in the 6-8 area and would be considered normal. Those students who gave a 10 or 9 I would recognise verbally by just saying “that’s great to hear”. Those that came in very low would be commiserated “I’m sorry to hear you are having a bad day, lets have a great lesson and see if we can leave the room on a 5”. It’s those low scores I was interested in. As a classroom teacher you are never fully aware of the big picture of students lives, but knowing a students is in a bad mood before you confront them about a lack of work or lateness etc.. allows you to change your approach and still get the message across but in a more sensitive way. I found this very useful as a way of maintaining relationships with students and preventing those surprise blow ups that some students are more prone to.

Hopefully I will be able to blog about our schools use of scaling to support vulnerable students soon, but it’s not quite ready and it’s not mine to share. I think this is the evolution of these ideas and will really impact the way we work some of our students.

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