An expert responds to Classroom Secrets

An educational psychologist has expressed reservations about the Classroom Secrets programme screened by BBC1 last night.

Kairen Cullen, a Chartered Psychologist, says: “Classroom Secrets offered an interesting snapshot of one classroom in one school for one relatively short period of time. But professionals who work in schools on a daily basis realise that changing the behaviour of children at schools is a complex business that happens gradually and only when many factors and influences are addressed.

“As an educational psychologist who works with many different children, teachers and parents in a wide variety of schools, I am concerned that the selective filming and commentary offered by this programme may has misled viewers into thinking that showing parents a secretly filmed view of their children is all that is needed to turn children with complex developmental and learning needs into engaged and successful pupils.”

Karien Cullen also expressed reservations about the ethics of broadcasting material about individual children, who may have to live with the effects of their television portrayal for years to come.

Classroom Secrets will be available to view on the BBC website for the next week.

Not sure we learned anything that was not described and addressed comprehensively in The Elton Report (1989), Discipline in Schools, which seems to have been lost in the mists of time.
Classic case of the reinvention of the wheel being greeted with great excitement by those who have not paid proper attention to history

During these edited clips, we didn't see much of an very engaging nature going on in the class. That doesn't mean to say it wasn't happening at other times. In fact, you could hazard a guess that when it was engaging and interesting, there was little or no difficult behaviour worth screening. Still, the majority of children in this class were compliant enough to cope with the more mundane parts of the day.
As a teacher of this age group, some of the times when I notice low-level disruption most are: one, when children are asked to come up with written output and the task is perceived to be too demanding by some individual children; two when the task has too little structure for some individual children. I would usually arrange differentiation in my class, especially at times when the children do not have the support of another adult. This doesn’t mean it wasn’t happening in this class – just that it wasn’t when we saw difficult behaviour.
I wonder if the children were shown any of the clips. I'd have been very interested to hear their comments. I have used video as a way of improving children's attention and presentation in eg rehearsals for stage performances. Young children can be slow to recognise themselves and a child can suggest improvements before realising it's his/her own performance which has prompted it! There is also a chance to see that everyone else is actually following directions and only they are not. Some children are still so egocentric that they lack this awareness until shown it "from the outside" as it were. Some children can think they are acting/saying/doing/showing things clearly and they are sometimes very surprised when the video reveals they are not
I agree with Marc, it's potentially dehumanising to herd lots of small kids together to share the attention of only one or two adults, at a time when for many of them, the focused attention of one or two adults could be crucial to their development of themselves.

As a psychologist, secondary school teacher and a father to a 9 year old boy, Classroom Secrets was of interest on several levels. Classrooms are difficult places at the best of times, perhaps because there is no other time in a persons life when they are placed in such a situation and as a result some thrive while others never really get to grips with it. The programme, of course, concentrated on the negative aspects of the behaviour without really discussing any of the positive aspects. Kids will also test the boundaries, not only of the classroom and teachers but also of their own independence. Not surprisingly, many teachers will pander to the demands of kids in order to avoid conflict and further disruption. I remain unsure if the problem lies with kids, teachers, parents or the overall de-humanizing school culture.

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