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Silence in class improves behaviour and results, study finds

Silence is golden. Children should be seen and not heard. In an era of active and cooperative learning, these seem like maxims from bygone times.

But a University of Stirling researcher and former teacher has found that silence in the classroom acts as a "sanctuary" and may improve behaviour and exam results.

Helen Lees' book, Silence in Schools, discusses recent scientific research and case studies from schools which employ silence as an "innovative pedagogic tool".

She draws on testimonials from UK teachers and headteachers who have introduced techniques such as meditation, mindfulness, pausing, silent reading, silent moments, and quiet spaces.

Dr Lees, a research fellow in the laboratory for educational theory at the university's school of education, makes a distinction between "weak" and "strong" silence.

"Weak silence has been used in the classroom for a long time, but traditionally this weak form harnesses silence as an oppressive tool, whereby children are punished or controlled through the process of enforced noise cessation," she said.

But silence, if managed and developed appropriately, could have "a hugely beneficial and transformative effect on both pupils and teachers".

She believes silence in the classroom is conducive to an environment in which joy, contentment and calmness are stimulated, and tolerance for others is promoted; such an approach may also be suitable for prisons and young offender institutions.

An added bonus, in these hard economic times, was that the benefits came at little or no cost.

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