How to use a heartrate monitor to improve learner punctuality

(c) 2024 DN Colleges Group

The end-of-year conference season is upon us and it’s a delight to be spending these two weeks supporting colleges around the country. Yesterday, at the wonderful Doncaster and North Lindsey Colleges, we were looking at Learning Motivation. The session revolves around a series of really important conversations that prompt delegates to consider their starting point for creating a curriculum plan.

The norm is to look at the number of units in the qualification, look at the number of hours and weeks available to deliver, then map one on to the other. If this is how you do it too, then you may want to pause a moment for reflection. You see, I firmly believe this is not only wrong, but costs may teachers in our sector a signification amount of time and effort.

The ‘time and effort’ I’m referring to is the energy staff have to put into to learners who are not functioning at the top of their game. This could include: handing work in of a poor quality, which then takes staff more time to mark and feedback; not handing work it on time, causing staff to have to chase learners; not turning up for lessons, making staff create some sort of catch-up strategy; not turning up on time for lessons, ruining the careful flow and unfolding narrative staff have crafted for that lesson, etc, etc. There’s a phrase for all these ‘costs’: Preventable Contact.

It’s a great phrase. It’s great because you can begin to think of any investment you make in improving the quality of the learning experiences you provide in terms of its payoff: the reduction in your Preventable Contact.

So how does all of this relate to curriculum planning? One of the really simple, but profound, questions I ask in the Learning Motivation session is: at which point in the year is learner motivation generally lowest? Around 90% of delegates say January.

Then, on a ‘thin’ scheme of work (basically 36 empty boxes for each week from September to July) then ask delegates to pop a smiley face in any weeks that are unmissably exciting – weeks that learners are looking forward to for at least 3 or 4 weeks in advance.

Are you ahead of me?

Hardly anyone puts a smiley face in January.

In other words, the low levels of motivation in January that we know so well (the adverse emotional state that ends up costing staff a considerable amount of Preventable Contact) are in no way mitigated by the design of the curriculum plan. Staff are getting what they deserve…

So, as we all know January is one of the lowest points in the year for learners, this adverse emotional state should be our starting point for curriculum design. Just make sure the very best and most exciting part of your pedagogy strategy happens straight after Christmas. And that learners are looking forward to it all through December.

Yesterday, delegates looked carefully at the most challenging issues they’d love to resolve with a wave of a magic wand. And I’d just like to tell you about a simple but radical and brilliant idea the sports teachers come up with. They’re wrestling with a ubiquitous issue: the poor punctuality of some learners. After some careful preparation for the process of finding creative resolution strategies, they wowed the audience with the simplicity and inventiveness of their ideas. They were definitely in flow, and while I sadly failed to write down many of their wonderful strategies, I did capture these two:

• get learners to create personal TikTok alarms that energise them and make them want to get out of bed and crack on with the day.
• have an on-going competition (using hear-rate trackers) to see who can ‘score’ the highest heart rate on their journey into college!

Knowing how my road-cyclist son is ever-motivated by his Strava data, I can definitely see this working. Genius!

Whether they go on to do any of their ideas isn’t really the point – though I sincerely hope they will. What they show us all is that there’s a far better chance of resolving the perennial issue of poor punctuality if you avoid wagging your finger at learners and repeatedly telling them off.

Bravo the creative thinkers.

Best wishes


#FE #motivation #c4cqi #JoyFE #UKFEchat #TonyDavis


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