After my online presentation at the Reform Symposium this summer, Usamah Chaudhary (@usamahc) contacted me about a classroom management system that he helped design. The beta version of ClassDojo is being used in a number of classes now, and Usamah was looking for some feedback on this system. I was initially hesitant to give it a try. After reading many blog posts by Chris Wejr (@mrwejr) and conversing with him through Twitter too about the negative impact of rewards, I didn’t want to try a system that to me seemed very “reward based.”
After Skyping with Usamah though, my opinion changed. Yes, students are getting points/badges for their positive behaviours and losing points/badges for their negative ones, but these points are not earning them anything. To me, these badges are just visual representations of what they are doing right and what they need to continue to work on. They are bridging the gap between extrinsic and intrinsic rewards. And this I love, so I was more than willing to give this a try! Best of all, these badges match up to the Learning Skills that we have to assess on our report cards, so ClassDojo helps me track these learning skills too.
If you asked me back in August though if I would use ClassDojo the way that I’m using it now, I would have definitely said no. I’ve changed my approach though. As the school year started, I started to think, why do teachers need to be the only ones responsible for classroom management? What if the students could hold this responsibility?
Now instead of me giving positive and negative badges, I let the students give their own. After our small group centres and during various full group activities, one student comes up to the SMART Board, and he/she goes through the class, asking individual students if they deserve various badges and why. This only takes a couple of minutes, but it’s definitely helped my students take control over their own behaviour and accurately assess how they’re doing too. They know what they’re doing right, they know what they’re doing wrong, and they know what they need to continue to work on. They are building an intrinsic desire to work hard and help others, and this management system is just visually representing and tracking their hard work.
Below is a short video clip demonstrating how my students lead this self-assessment process:
(Important Note: I do apologize for the sound quality, as I was sitting by the open window, and you can hear the phys-ed class outside in the background. Speakers should help with the volume though.)
What kind of management system do you use in your classroom? What role do students play in this system? I would love to hear what you have to say!
A special thank you as well to Usamah Chaudhary and the rest of the ClassDojo team for being so receptive to teacher feedback and so eager to create a tracking system that works well for a large variety of students! Your system has helped me change my approach to classroom management.
I like the way you took the concept of ClassDojo and made it work for you. Our school uses Kagan’s cooperative learning with class and team building. It’s a good system and it works for us. What I think every school or teacher, for that matter, has to do is evaluate the needs of the students and adopt programs that best fit those needs. If there is a reason for tweeking than do it. No program is perfect and our kids are not one size fits all.
Thanks for another great post.
Thanks for your comment, JoAnn! I think that your comment about the fact that, “no program is perfect and our kids are not one size fits all” is so important. I completely agree! Tweaking the program and making it work for the group that we have is essential. Thank you for reminding me of this, and thanks for sharing what you do too!
Aviva, thanks for including me in this dialogue. As you know I am a big fan of self-assessment and not a fan of extrinsic rewards.
Some questions for you:
Do the kids understand the criteria of what a badge means?
Is it standardized? (ex. Each child has different skills when it comes to behavior so I am a bit confused how the child will know what results in a badge.)
Here are my questions:
Are the badges necessary? From peeking into your classroom from afar, you don’t seem to have a problem with engagement… I am worried that the badges actually inhibit what you are doing. I am worried that the kids are more concerned about the badge than doing the right thing… Because it is the right thing. Can you do self-assessment without the badges?
What happens when you remove the badges? Will they still reflect?
So I guess what I am saying is that i like the reflective piece but I strongly believe this could be done privately rather than publicly and without the use of badges. My big concern is that the badges may be undermining intrinsic motivation (see research by Deci and Ryan) and that time spent on badges may actually be taking away from the brilliant things you already do.
Individual, self-reflection along with descriptive feedback based upon clear criteria is always the most powerful thing we can do as teachers and I strongly believe this can be done as effectively, if not more effectively without badges.
Can you picture doing this with adults or at staff meeting? If no, then I wonder if we should be doing this to/with kids.
I look forward to hearing our thoughts and learning from you around this topic.
Chris, thank you so much for your comment! I really appreciate how much you continually push my thinking, and you definitely have done so here.
As for these badges, we only use them at a couple of different times over the course of the day. When we use them, they’re in instances where all students really do have very similar expectations for behaviour. The students with slightly different expectations know this too, and even when they comment, they comment based on what they can do. My class make-up this year makes a system like this much easier to use than it may have been in other years. The students already understand the benefit of working hard and helping others, and in many ways, I’m just tracking this behaviour largely for report card purposes.
All day long, I give verbal feedback when I see the students doing the right thing, and others in the class give verbal feedback too (e.g., “Thank you for helping me tidy up!”). They know that this doesn’t result in a badge … it never has and it never will!
I also have cut down on the number of badges I’ve given since the beginning of the year, already trying to have students offer more verbal feedback on how they’re doing, and already doing more of this myself too. I want to build an intrinsic desire for students to want to do their best, and I do believe that in the younger grades, visual representations can sometimes help with this too (e.g., Internal dialogue could be something such as, I put up my hand a lot, I see the little participation sign go up on ClassDojo, and I know that it’s a good thing to keep on participating. My teacher’s proud of me, and I’m proud of me too.)
I’ve found these visual representations to be incredibly helpful with my students that have various language needs. They need visuals, and trying to take an abstract concept such as, “participation,” and make it more concrete, really does help them. They are also being more specific in describing what they’re doing to get these badges, which really is assisting them in self-reflecting too.
Each year in a classroom is different though, and with different students, I may not do this activity as a full group. I may have students just offer feedback to me. I may have this set-up on a classroom computer, where students would just click their name and do this privately (or privately just with me). I think that knowing your students and their needs, and knowing what would work best for them is so important!
To be honest, I don’t see myself using this program all year long. I think that I may continue to track some behaviour this way (e.g., homework completion) just for the use of the “Learning Skills” section on the report card alone, but that as time goes on, the students won’t need these visuals anymore. That’s why I’ve already slowly been reducing the number of badges I use and when we hand them out.
The other day, I timed how long it takes to hand out these badges, and we were down to four minutes over the course of the whole day. I’m glad that this system does not take away from the general running of the classroom program, and I’m glad that even when we don’t hand out badges, the behaviours have remained consistent. I do try to create an engaging learning environment where students will want to learn, and I definitely think that this has already been established. I don’t want to move in the direction of extrinsic rewards, and I hope that the students become even more intrinsically motivated to work. I see that happening so far, and I’m excited to see what the rest of the year will bring.
Thanks again for such a thought-provoking comment!
Self- assessment sound great. Like to know more about using the badges.
I’d suggest checking out the ClassDojo website. This will help a lot with understanding the badges.
Thanks for your comment!
I’ve read this blog over and over again and I’m still not sure what the value is of using this program. Are you using it to help your record keeping for good classroom behaviour? Is that something that needs to be rewarded with “badges”? I understand that you are trying to put the giving of positive behaviour awards on to the shoulders of the students in your class buy my question is why? What happens to the students that don’t get any badges? How does that make them feel? Or does everyone get a token badge and if it’s a token badge what value (if any) does it really have. Does it actually motivate them to improve or does it just make the well behaved continue to behave well, and the “behaviourly challenged” continue to behave poorly. Does it really motivate anyone to improve their behaviour? Does having the students give the rewards to one another make it any better? Teaching children to be internally motivated isn’t easy, and so often it goes against the grain of what we’ve been taught. I think I will give this program a pass and continue to work hard at helping my students learn to be internally motivated.
Thanks for your comment! I’m really hoping that my reply helps answer some of your questions, and not necessarily change your mind, but at least let you see why I value this program. I do like the use of these badges in tracking classroom behavior, but more so, for now, in giving a visual for each behavior too. This visual has really helped some of my students with language needs, as then they get the picture to accompany my words (e.g., I like how you helped …), to help build that internal desire to keep doing the preferred behavior. They’re now at the point of even describing this behavior on their own — making them more aware of what they’re doing and why. Already I’ve been able to cut down on the number of badges handed out, and just continue to use the positive, descriptive feedback instead. It’s my ultimate goal, as I said in reply to @mrwejr, to not hand out badges anymore, and just have that intrinsic motivation as being enough. I just find that this takes some time.
As for students not getting badges, some of them haven’t before. They’ve had no problem admitting this, as the focus has been on what would you do differently the next time? And a change in behavior has occurred too. I think it’s good for students to know that sometimes we make mistakes and sometimes we forget to always try our best, but we can keep on working and try again. I model this with the use of this program, and I’m seeing good results. Maybe with a different group of students, I wouldn’t do this publicly, but each group is different, and my group this year works well with how we’re using ClassDojo.
I was initially hesitant too about using this program, but it has been beneficial to me in tracking the behavior that I need to do for Learning Skills and giving the students more ownership over tracking this behavior too. It’s also only assisted with my goal of building intrinsic motivation in students — something that I’m very thankful for. Thank you for all of your questions and for really pushing me to articulate what I’m doing and why I’m doing it!
I am just discovering the ClassDojo program and I am going to try to implement it. I am in a slightly different situation, as I teach high school business classes. I am fortunate enough to have standards specifically geared toward teaching students the many concepts encompassed in professionalism. Each week, I would have my students write a brief self-reflection with regard to their professional behavior in class, then they would award themselves the number of points (out of 10) they felt they had justifiably earned. I would give students feedback on their reports and let them know if I thought their self-assessment was fair or not. I think that I will adopt ClassDojo as a supplement to my existing system, if for no other reason than to let the students know that I am more aware of both their positive and negative behaviors than they might believe. While I may not use their ClassDojo scores directly, I will use it to provide my students with a little bit of feedback throughout the week, rather than only on their reflections, after any feedback is no longer linked with the behavior.
Thank you, Tom, for sharing what you’re doing here. I like how you’ve thought about the reason for using ClassDojo, and I’m curious to hear about your success with it too!