A Lilydale school is rewarding students with iTunes vouchers, popcorn, pizza and morning teas, driving a radical change in student behaviour in just nine months. Edinburgh College has transformed the classroom by using an innovative new framework, using tactics like positive feedback and merits for good behavior, rather than focusing on punishing students. The small Lilydale P-12 school this year implemented the Positive Behaviour for Learning (PB4L) framework, which is aimed at reducing disruptive behaviour and incidents, improving student achievement and increasing learning and teaching time in the classroom. At primary level, students who display respect, resilience, responsibility and a willingness to learn have been rewarded in novel ways like colourful “Gotchu” cards that are worn around the school. Every week, four Gotchu card recipients are randomly selected to sit on bean bags with a chosen friend at Friday chapel and enjoy boxes of popcorn and a drink.
Principal Tim Borgas said the students were as “proud as punch” when receiving the Gotchu cards, with 2500 handed out in the first three terms of this year.
“We’ve always had merits and rewards, but this is taking things to a new level,” he said.
“It’s encouraging people to look for and celebrate positive behaviours instead of always highlighting the kids who make mistakes with their behaviour.”
In the senior school, students are given rewards like iTunes and pizza vouchers, and letters of merit to send to their parents and potential employers. Secondary students who consistently demonstrate the PB4L philosophy are invited to a Merit Morning Tea in the café, in recognition of good behaviour.
“We announce the names of the students over the PA who get a free breakfast, and you hear other students say: ‘Oh man, they got the food again’,” said Mr Borgas.
Mr Borgas said behaviour across the primary and senior campuses had improved dramatically since they introduced the program, which is supported by the University of Melbourne.
“What we have found is that the number of students we discipline has dropped by 23% since the beginning of the year,” he said.
“This framework has revolutionised the way our teachers interact with students. It has challenged our team to give more positive and intentional feedback to our students on a regular basis.”
The globally-renowned PB4L, first developed in the US, is designed to encourage students to take responsibility for their decision-making, and provide them with opportunities to make positive choices. The University of Melbourne has rated Edinburgh College one of the most successful in Victoria after it completed the first stage or “tier” – which usually takes a minimum of a year – in a record nine months. It achieved a score of 29/30, outperforming most of the Victorian schools to introduce the program.
The New Zealand Council for Educational Research found the introduction of PB4L within New Zealand schools in 2010 – 2013 resulted in 73 per cent less disruptions in class, a 71 per cent increase in engagement in learning and a 55 per cent increase in students arriving on time for lessons.
Dr Shiralee Poed, Senior Lecturer at the University of Melbourne’s Melbourne Graduate School of Education, said the school had worked tirelessly to turn around student behaviour.
“In a very small amount of time, a quite significant change has occurred in the school,” she said.
“Students have been recognised for making good decisions, and staff have also responded consistently to help students who make behavioural mistakes.”
Edinburgh College has made a short film to demonstrate the results of the program, which will be submitted for the the Association for Positive Behaviour Support’s 15th International Conference on Positive Behaviour Interventions and Supports in the US in March 2018.