Working on What Works – a ‘WOWW!’ approach to classroom behaviour
Updated: Apr 14, 2021
At the start of the current academic year an opportunity presented itself at a Primary School in Hull for psychology to be applied at the whole class level. At the planning meeting the SENCO discussed the needs of a number of children all within the same Year 4 class (sound familiar?) and that the class teacher was requesting some support to help the children to engage in learning for longer and interact positively with each other.
Whilst we spent some time discussing the individual needs of the children it was agreed that finding solutions to help the whole class would be beneficial for the group and the class teacher’s confidence.
Previous research has suggested that a Working On What Works (WOWW) intervention can positively impact on behaviour and relationships in the classroom* and increase teacher confidence**
So after discussing the potential benefits and planning the necessary logistics, including gaining parental permission, the school agreed to give it a go!
So… what is WOWW?
WOWW is a whole class behaviour support approach, rooted in solution-focused psychology. It has been described as a practical tool to help solve everyday problems in the classroom by building positive relationships between the teacher and pupils, through collaborative teamwork (Brown et al, 2012).
The WOWW Coach (usually an Educational Psychologist or a member of school with good observational skills) initially works collaboratively with the class teacher to establish goals to work towards over a period of time (e.g. a half-term). They then spend time in the classroom (e.g. weekly visits) observing lessons and providing positive feedback to all children on what they are doing well and encouraging them to reflect on the positive impact this has on them, their peers and teaching staff. Feedback is also provided to teaching staff at the end of each observation on what they did well.
As I often remind teaching staff, I am not there to interfere with the delivery of the curriculum or current behaviour systems in place, instead, my role as WOWW Coach is to simply focus on what is working well in the classroom – the more we focus on this, the more likely we will see it happening in the future, hence the name Working On What Works!
How did we implement WOWW?
A typical WOWW intervention (outlined below) has five phases incorporating planning, goal setting, general and targeted observations and review phases:
What were the outcomes?
The charts below provide information on the individual WOWW targets, pre-intervention ratings, expected ratings, post intervention ratings and observed differences for both the class teacher and pupils, over the six-week period.
The children and the class teacher were fantastic to work with!
They were a very enthusiastic group of kids to say the least, who always made me feel welcome on every visit.
The numbers themselves make for very positive reading, with gains recorded on all six targets. In addition, during the review meeting, the class teacher talked about how WOWW had had a positive impact on her, specifically sharing she was now:
More relaxed in the classroom
Enjoying most days and excited to teach the class
Focusing more on relational models of behaviour support
Building relationships with key children who had previously been ‘hard to reach’
Growing to like the children and their personalities
Bringing in ‘sparkle moments’ into everyday teaching to encourage children to notice positives about each other
Able to link WOWW principles to whole school behaviour approaches
The power of positivity
My personal favourite reflection was noted after the second week of WOWW when the class teacher commented “knowing that someone was coming into my class to be positive, this had made me be more positive with the class”.
It was also encouraging to receive positive feedback from both the Head Teacher and SENCO who had noticed a positive shift in both the children’s behaviour and learning, and an increased confidence within the class teacher.
It’s not a surprise that the Head Teacher contacted me at the end of term wanting to roll out WOWW across other classrooms!
As shown with this intervention, WOWW is a cracking whole class behaviour support approach. It is inclusive (as all members of the class receive positive feedback about what they are doing well), and it can be used to promote positive social interactions at the peer to peer level and between children and the class teacher.
It provides a clear focus on behavioural outcomes to work towards for the whole class, and through scaling, supports children to take ownership and responsibility over their own behaviour and learning, whilst receiving coaching support.
It is a joy to be a WOWW Coach noticing and sharing things that are going well. This approach can genuinely help shape the culture of a classroom as well as promote gains in learning behaviours.
Let’s get WOWW-ing in more schools!
Dr David Lamb
Director and Educational Psychologist at Applied Psychologies
If this intervention is something that may be of interest to you, then please don’t hesitate to raise WOWW with your EP at your next planning meeting, or alternatively contact us direct at firstname.lastname@example.org
* (Brown et al, 2012; Fernie & Cubeddu, 2016)
** (Lloyd et al, 2012; Fernie & Cubeddu 2016;)