A shared understanding of Ofsted's Behaviours and Attitudes
Ofsted will report both behaviour and attitudes as one of four judgements in the new Education Inspection Framework. But what does this mean?
In 2019, Ofsted reinvented the standards by which it judged success in educational settings. There had been a lot of talk of the need to split the judgement that combined personal development, behaviour and welfare. These were seen as too large a brief for one standard. The consensus was that behaviour would become a standard alone. What came as a surprise was the introduction of the term ‘attitude’ to this standard. Suddenly, the learners' behaviour and attitude to learning were one of four categories that discerned the overall success of an educational provider.
Behaviour has generally been viewed narrowly by educators. There is an implied assumption that this is the prevention of destructive behaviours that impede learning. 'Behaviour for Learning' was an attempt to switch this to a more positive interpretation but still had little to do with how we show up and its impact on outcomes. The inclusion of attitudes embraces the need to develop the person and the learner in the educational setting.
With the pressure from the CBI for work-readiness in young people, Ofsted’s response is to introduce the concept of behaviours and attitudes. The hope is that educational institutions will take the responsibility for delivering those qualities that help us perform in the workplace.
What do behaviours and attitude mean?
Attitude is a specific area of psychology and is defined as our feelings, emotions, beliefs, thoughts, and attributes and explores the connection with past behaviours and experiences. Attitudes are formed due to this past and our frequency of exposure to events. We shape our evaluative conditioning through stimulus, sparking our reactions to those things we like and dislike.
In short, it is who we are as people. It is our character.
Linking behaviour and attitudes together is an acknowledgement that how we act is a result of our attitude. To shape the right behaviours, you must explore the underlying attitudes that lead to this outward demonstration of our character.
It is not a revolution for educators. The best mediators of learning understand that there is a need to win the hearts and minds of our learners if we are to succeed in shaping positive behaviours. We see it as an integral part of the pastoral system and relationships between teacher and student, tutor and apprentice, and beyond.
However, what is a revolution is the need to overtly educate learners in behaviours and attitudes. What is the standard, and what is the course content? Suddenly, it is not enough to audit across subjects the links to pastoral issues or track data to prove positive attitudes in an institution; there now needs to be a sense of progression. When the learner arrives with you to the point they leave, there needs to be a significant improvement in behaviours and attitudes, and you need to know how it has happened.
It would be easy to look for a cut and paste model to cover this new standard. There have been mark schemes in the past that allude to behaviours. These mark schemes can and have been co-opted and rebranded, and used as a measuring stick. However, these models were imperfect for the old standard; they will lead to little in the way of an active pedagogy for the new standard.
The trouble is that our character is subjective. What it takes to be the best person we can be is bespoke. Behaviour and attitudes belie standardisation and the composition of criteria for success because we are distinct from one another; we are human beings. It is maybe easy to standardise the behaviours, but it feels impossible to capture a single criterion for attitudes.
Let's step back from the tangled web we weave and look for a route to codification. How can we systemise behaviours and attitudes?
The word "behaviours" begins with the word "be". The present participle is "being", – which makes sense, as we are human beings. Attitudes are partly about beliefs and values, and there is a shared understanding of what "being good" means. We need to be kind, for instance. If life gets tough, we need to be resilient. If something needs an intelligent and emotionally mature reaction, we need to be wise.
The word "be" becomes the key to unlocking an understanding of how to systematise this character that will be inspected. We begin to see what we should be helping our learners learn.
A model for learning and assessment
Being honest is one of the attitudes we would want our learners to demonstrate.
To be honest, Entelechy has codified character and provided a language for learning how to "be" better. We have 54 Character Qualities, which are shaped by our attitudes and are demonstrated in our behaviours. These Character Qualities give teachers, tutors, professors, mentors, coaches, and more, a language for learning. We now know what should be in the curriculum. We can positively and actively help develop our learners' attitudes and behaviours.
Entelechy has also shaped a system for assessing character development, so you can track and evidence the learning of behaviours and attitudes.
In the evolution of our taxonomy, we noted the need to be strategic.
We understood that behaviours for learning meant exhibiting the habits that led to a transformation in understanding, application and creativity. Therefore, while learning about improving your character, we will reward you with an accredited qualification if you exhibit these behaviours. If we believe in everything we do as educators, we should accept that these learning behaviours will result in our learners being better than before.
The importance of shared language
There are all sorts of ways to behave well and demonstrate a proper attitude and these change with context. However, we do have a universal code we share as human beings that guides us to be better. And there is power in a shared language to articulate this area of learning, as then together we shape a curriculum and a means of reward that can help Ofsted in their judgements.
This taxonomy of character also happens to help people become their best selves, too – it is one of those moments when an Ofsted evaluation could make education better.