Boost the experience!

Every child responds to being heard and valued

One of the key insights from collecting student feedback across a wide range of schools is that a small number of teachers can achieve very high ratings from all their classes (average above 4.5 on a 1-5 scale, across all questions).

The interpretation of this is that students highly value the experience they are having in these classes which means that this experience meets their three internal needs: to have some measure of control over their lives, to feel competent and to see that competence growing and to feel connected, meaning that they feel they are heard, valued and their interests are taken into account.

It is usually the last of these – connection – that is the key differentiator and by far the most difficult to get a handle on as a teacher. A student feels connected when a teacher invests their attention in that student. Investing the same amount and type of attention in each student is hard to do.

Alfred Stevens - In the Studio

Alfred Stevens - In the Studio

In fact, we know from research (Ellen Skinner and Michael Belmont, University of Rochester 1993) that teachers tend to amplify initial conditions of student engagement.

If a student is initially engaged, the attention we invest will tend to support that engagement, and deeper engagement occurs.  If a student is initially disengaged, then the attention we invest will tend to default to controlled motivation – reward or punishment – to try and raise engagement, but in fact, doing the opposite, the student does not feel valued or heard, just controlled.

What this small group of teachers is demonstrating is that they can make every student feel heard and valued and that it has a quite dramatic impact on raising the experience of every student in a class.

The trick is to be unconditional in how we invest our attention i.e. sustained attention rather than focused attention with its accompanying judgement and comparison.


I am offering a (free) webinar today at 12 pm AEST titled ‘Student Feedback - key issues to think about’.  See below for details on how to register, if you can't make it, please still register and I'll send you the recording.


John Corrigan is an expert in helping individuals to bring their whole of mind to their daily life and increase their effectiveness and the effectiveness of those around them. This expertise scales from the individual to the team to the organisation. At the core of this work is the practice of encounter.  Earlier blogs can be found here.

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John Corrigan