Pupils want less talk, more tidying

TEACHERS should talk less, take pupils on more trips and keep their classrooms tidy if they want youngsters to learn more effectively.

At least, that is the view of primary pupils who took part in a study on what motivates children to achieve their potential.

Nearly a third of pupils told researchers that teachers talking too much prevented them from doing their best work, while nearly half said that they would learn better if they went on school trips.

According to the study by Colegrave primary in Stratford, east London - which was supervised by London University's Institute of Education - a fifth of pupils said untidiness and noise made them feel unhappy in class. A third of pupils also said they found concentrating and being inside for too long the hardest things about school. Nearly 40 per cent of pupils said that when they found something hard to do it was because they were disturbed by noise. Only one in five said it was because it was too difficult.

Headteacher Jill Pullen and senior teacher Carlene Hutchinson carried out the research to find out what would motivate pupils who they felt were not learning as well as they could.

The school also wanted to know how best to understand and help the 20 per cent of its pupils that come from refugee and asylum-seeking families whose education had been severely disrupted.

They were struck by the maturity of children's answers and also their ability to identify which of their classmates learned the best.

"Even the young children were very good judges of learning abilities," said Miss Pullen. "They could identify the children in a class who were good learners.

"The older the child, the quieter and neater they wanted the environment. The younger children liked to learn through activity. They did not want to be sitting down all the time."

One of the surprises of the study was that nearly half of the children said they learned better in the afternoon. Staff attributed this to children eating nothing, or very little, at breakfast time.

Pupils in Years 1 to 3 now prepare and eat food as part of the morning curriculum - and before they study English. Miss Pullen said that standards in the subject had risen considerably as a result of introducing the snack-time.

Frank McNeil, director of the National School Improvement Network at the institute, who has been overseeing and analysing the school's data, said that listening to pupils' views about their learning environment was an idea whose time had come.

"We tend to see children as the clients down there and we the teachers in the adult world," said Mr McNeil. "But they are not just passive things waiting to be filled up. They are thinking, dynamic human beings from the word go.

"This research showed that even the youngest children are very thoughtful about what is going on. We ignore the views of children at our peril."

For more information about the study, e-mail f.mcneil@ioe.ac.uk or carlenezz@yahoo.com. "Phase 1: Teachers' Views of the Attributes of Successful Learners" is available for pound;4.50 from Colegrave primary school, Henniker Road, London E15 1JY

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