Last Updated: Thursday, June 27, 2019

Doing Our Best: A Children’s Parliament and Aberdeen City Council programme located in Bramble Brae, Manor Park, Riverbank and Tullos Primary Schools

What is this?

​​​In order to impact on attainment in ways that are sustained for the learner there is a need to address how children see themselves as learners, and to create classroom environments where children are both loved and nurtured. Doing Our Best is a programme developed by the Children's Parliament and Aberdeen City Council to address the attainment gap by building on learner self-perception and rights-based classroom relationships. It was located in Bramble Brae, Manor Park, Riverbank and Tullos Primary Schools and was built around creative whole-class and small group tasks.

The first aspect is a focus on learner self-perception, sometimes called academic self-perception. The programme uses the Myself as a Learner Scale (MALS), one-to-one with children pre-and-post intervention. It provides a validated tool to explain and measure the three main aspects of learner self-perception which Doing Our Best then addresses.

These are:

  • ​a sense of agency related to learning optimism;
  • learned helplessness;
  • and enjoyment and active involvement in problem solving.

​The second aspect is the development of rights-based relationships, which are those defined by a mutual understanding of the centrality of human dignity, empathy, kindness and trust.​

Who is this for?

​This exemplar will be useful to teachers and those working alongside schools to support learning in the context of a shared focus on the poverty-related attainment gap in middle and upper primary school years.​

​How to use this exemplar to improve practice

Doing Our Best focuses on the importance of relationships for learning and on the child’s self-perception as a learner. It recognises that by their middle/upper primary school years some children may begin to feel that learning is not for them, they cannot succeed, that there is no fun in learning. In gentle and non-stigmatising ways, the programme challenges children to shift perceptions of themselves, whilst challenging teacher facilitators to view each learner as a capable individual for whom growth is possible. Practically, the programme supports children to develop the attitudes and skills for learning that underpin success and confidence to learn.

Improvement questions

  • ​​In our establishment, are we attending to the long-term, cultural challenges in the families and communities where our children live, where there may be a legacy of low attainment and a lack of belief that learning matters?
  • How well do staff in our schools understand the importance of children’s self-perception in their learning and seek to address this as a way of improving attainment?
  • To what extent do our improvement activities use creative, positive, participatory approaches, building on the child’s natural curiosity to build a love of learning?​
  • To what extent do our improvement activities reflect the centrality of the classroom teacher as the key to building learner skills and confidence?
  • In our improvement work, do we see the value of creating adult/child relationships that can be characterised as nurturing, kind, empathic and trusting?

Explore this exemplar​

What was done?​

Children’s Parliament developed Doing Our Best to build each child’s perception of themselves as a learner in the context of creating kinder, nurturing, rights-based learning environments.

This was a further extension of the work already begun in Aberdeen entitled ‘Imagining Aberdeen’ reported on the programme blog:

In school year 2016/17 the Doing Our Best programme was co-facilitated along with 8 class teachers in 4 Aberdeen City Council primary schools (210 children took part). The programme evaluation gives detail and reports on the positive impact on children, classroom environments and teaching approaches.

Download 'Doing our Best (Report 2017) (PDF)' from Children's Parliament website page.​

Why was it done?​

Learner participation has many benefits for learners and schools in terms of improving relationships, improving learning and teaching and raising attainment. This programme​ encourages learners to participate more fully in their learning to improve outcomes.

Poor learner self-perception is a barrier to improvement. Educational Psychologist Bob Burden recognised: 'Ability alone is not enough: how we think about ourselves matters too.' The Doing our Best programme identifies strengths and areas for improvement and follows this up with whole class and small group work facilitated by the teacher and ​Children's Parliament facilitator to build confidence and capacity in relevant areas.

The Doing Our Best programme activities are also located in the bigger context of experiencing school as a healthy, happy and safe place to be. To achieve this understanding children first reflect on what they need, they explore the idea of human dignity, and learn about rights. The work provides evidence that we can improve how children and teachers talk; how children feel about and approach learning and that this can bring benefits to child and teacher and to the learning environment. Children's Parliament views adult/child relationships as central to a child's wellbeing and educational outcomes.

Finally, Doing Our Best identifies the need to impact on attainment in the long-term and in ways that are sustained for the learner and for teachers when it comes to their classroom practice.

What was the impact?​

The programme has had a positive impact on the learner (academic) self-perception of the children. Using a validated tool to measure this we learn that:

  • The impact has been statistically significant for all learners in terms of a sense of agency related to learning optimism.
  • Children who started with a lower than average score received most benefit from the intervention. For them, there was a statistically significant impact in terms of 2 areas: enjoyment and active involvement in problem solving and sense of agency related to learning optimism.

Reflecting on the programme, children report:

  • Doing Our Best supports them to think about learning and themselves as a learner.
  • They like the programme activities which are engaging and fun.
  • Activities help them consider approaches, attitudes and skills for learning.
  • They have learned about their rights and the core idea of human dignity. This helps them think about how they get on with others.

Classroom teachers report:

  • Initial preparation and discussion prepared the ground well and that the experience of the programme dispelled early worries about workload.
  • As co-facilitators, class teachers like having time with small groups of learners, observing that many children need and benefit from this focus.
  • Children are now seen more as individuals, each with potential and capacity to talk about and improve attitudes and skills for learning.
  • There has been positive impact on how children understand and talk about themselves as learners, with insight that can be used in the classroom day-to-day.
  • The programme enhances adult/child and peer relationships.