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2.1 Activating pupil voice: up close and personal

Asking students what they think ...

Answering the question “To what extent have students discerned a culture shift in classrooms”.

Think about recording and analysing conversations

Before beginning to talk with students about learning, it might be worth organising a recording of what they say. You could use IRIS if the school has this technology, but a simple video camera will do the job. If everyone made such recordings they could be used further down the line to sense longitudinal change in your students’ ability to discuss the process of learning – whether they are becoming increasingly fluent in ‘talking learnish’.

Conduct conversations with a mixed group of about 6 students for about 15 minutes.

When conducting such conversations it will be important to:

  • Put students at ease
  • Explain what you are doing
  • Assure them that there are no right answers
  • Ask them to just answer honestly etc.
  • Follow up open-ended questions with prompts like
    • what makes you say that?
    • how do you know that?
    • how do you feel about that?
    • how often does that happen?
    • when does that happen? etc
  • Take care not to influence or lead
  • Try not to agree or disagree
  • Refrain from asking leading questions
  • Show empathy by saying ‘Yes I understand’
  • Check your understanding by “Do you mean…” “I’m not sure I understood that, are you saying…”
  • Avoid wandering by saying “Let’s move on to the next point/another idea”
  • Thank them for their time and thoughts at the end. Make them feel valued

Key questions you might  pose in the learning conversation (and/or add some of your own):

  • How would you describe most of your lessons?
  • Who does the majority of the work?
  • Who asks the questions ?
  • To what extent would you say your learning is active ? (this will need explanation from you about the differences between being cognitively active and cognitively passive. The question is not about being physically active)
  • Have you noticed any changes in how teachers organise your lessons recently?
  • Are you able to make some choices in your lessons?
  • How much of your time is spent learning on your own, and how much learning with others?
  • What do you do when you don’t know what to do  / when you are stuck?
  • Do you enjoy doing things that you find challenging?
  • What advice would you give the school in order to improve the learning experience for you?

Important. Before undertaking the conversation please read the section ‘Analysing student responses’. This will help you to become aware of what you are hoping to glean from these conversations and hence make it easier to devise supplementary probing/exploratory questions to the ones above, as conversations unfold.

Analysing student responses:

Watch your recording, listening carefully to what and, importantly, how students are talking about learning and the shifts that they have perceived

Ask yourself:

How do my students perceive the culture of my classroom?

  • To what extent do students believe the culture is teacher focused?
  • Have they sensed a shift in recent months?
  • Do they prefer it now to previously?
  • How would they describe your classroom?
  • Do they believe they are able to exercise more choice than was previously the case?
  • Are they aware of what you have been trying to achieve?
  • Do responses indicate that students are aware of and prepared to accept a growing responsibility for their own learning?
  • Are they able to describe how they are better able to persevere now ?
  • Do they understand that work should be challenging, and do they enjoy this ?
  • What advice do they offer for further developments?

A chance to speculate

  • Had you conducted this learning conversation a year ago with the same students, what do you think the responses would have been?


  • What are students saying about learning and your classroom culture?
  • How convincingly are they saying it?
  • Are there links between what they are saying and the analysis and reflections that you have just undertaken?
  • Are there any surprises?

2.2 Activating pupil voice: at a distance

Using questionnaires

Pupils, of course, may see it a little differently. You can check out how their views of themselves as learners relate to your view of changes in practice. Invite your class to complete the quiz online. Older pupils will be able to do it for themselves, while younger ones will need to be talked through it by an adult.

The quizzes look at grey to purple (lacks to receive) and purple to blue phases of Perseverance, Collaboration and Questioning.

What are pupils learning about learning?

Make the Pupil Reaction review survey available on a computer in your classroom. Have the class complete it over the course of a day. Please ensure you select the survey tool that matches the Teacher Action tool you used (1 Grey to purple or 2 Purple to blue) There are 32 identical questionnaires pre-prepared. All pupils have to do is to type their names at the top of the questionnaire (or leave the generic [pupil 1] name), read the questions and put an x in the appropriate column.

Pupil Reaction review tool 1 – Grey to Purple


You can find this tool in the same Classroom Practice Review Review tool 1 excel spreadsheet as the Grey to Purple Teacher Action tool 1.

Pupil Reaction review tool 2 – Purple to blue


You can find this tool in the same Classroom Practice Review tool 2 excel spreadsheet as the Purple to Blue Teacher Action tool 2


Once you have collected your pupils’ views you can access a spreadsheet that combines your answers with pupils’ answers. to each of the 15 questions.  The blue columns are your results and the red columns are pupil results. The taller the red column the more the pupil agrees with the statement. Look carefully at these intriguing results.

Ask yourself:

  • screen-shot-2016-11-08-at-12-24-04To what extent do my views and pupil views coincide?
  • Where are they different?
  • Why might that be?
  • Are differences in some way related to the three different learning behaviours (i.e. is there a stronger relationship for Perseverance (1-5) than for Collaboration (6-10) for example)?
  • Do pupil results match my feeling for how they are progressing in their learning behaviours? (See questions in Task 4)
  • Are differences due to pupils having, in my opinion, an unrealistic/inaccurate view of themselves as learners?
  • If so, which learners have this unrealistic view? Is there a gender bias? Attainment bias?
  • What might I need to do to alter/improve these unrealistic/inaccurate views?

Make a note of…


  • What you think are the three most important differences in how your pupils are as Perseverers, Collaborators and Questioners
  • What you discovered from the Pupil Reaction quiz



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