Driving Change in Behaviour Management
It was Monsoon of 2018 when I traveled to the city of Bangalore, India under the Market Research Society of India’s The Community Program (TCP), an initiative designed to give back to the community by offering world-class research and insights to small organisations which work for social causes at grass-root level. The task was unusual but interesting.
Parikrma Foundation is an NGO that strives for the holistic development of underprivileged children empowering them to become valuable contributors to society. It runs 4 schools and 1 junior college in Bangalore. Despite investment in a detailed Behaviour management policy, there was one issue that the NGO had constantly grappled with – Disciplinary Concerns.
Violence and other behavioural traits of underserved children (especially teens) that led to classroom disruption and hampered the growth of all the students. This inherent concern about discipline gave rise to need for a direction – whether or not to change the behaviour management policy? If yes, what should be the change? If not, what should Parikrma do?
This is where the journey began. While the problem looked like a disciplinary concern – to be fixed by rules and policies, I looked at it differently.
I believed that a lot of empathy was needed to understand and address this problem. The study had to be about behaviour and how does one influence it, and not about disciplinary policy and its flaws. Keeping the student as the centre of this journey – their voice and story needed to be captured. My task was to find a mid-way making the outcome relevant to both – students primarily, and the school.
To understand why the students do what they do, a qualitative research approach was apt. However, the techniques had to be minimally intrusive.
The study had 3 phases
PHASE 1: EXPLORATION
Where I set out to explore the problem in detail and left no stone unturned. It began with setting the context right and gaining conceptual clarity about adolescent behaviour. A thorough theoretical review and conversations with developmental psychologists helped in this.
This was followed by in-situ observations at the school to explore and understand what exactly is the behaviour which is labeled as undisciplined or disruptive. Also to pick non-verbal cues and elements that form a part of the school culture. I attended classes and became one of them so that the students could be themselves when with me.
I also interviewed teachers to explore stories and instances of disciplinary issues. Their challenges, their approach to discipline, etc. helped me to develop the next phase, the crux of this entire study, in a robust manner.
PHASE 2: DISCOVERY
Hidden motivations and perceptions are unearthed when the students have freedom to express. And this is exactly what the Interactive workshops we all about.
This was a unique one of its kind technique used for this study. Sessions full of energy, fun and laughter left me with amazing insights that were eye-opening.
Techniques like role-playing their teachers set the students free to express; The Superhero Factory was another exercise where the students were asked to build their own superhero by sketching and making collages, this helped me understand the figures these students look up to and want to project.
PHASE 3: DESIGN
The last part of the study where I took all the findings to some experienced psychologists and senior educators to gain action steps based on their experience.
The most important discovery from this study was – Keeping students at the forefront and dealing with them differently rather than changing rules and policies was what was required for addressing issues at Parikrma.
This broad discovery was then split into small action steps for the NGO based on key insights –
Defining the school environment
“We have simple rules and regulations, we are not their teachers, we are their brothers and sisters that is why they call us Akka and Anna” – Teacher, Parikrma
Compassion is an important aspect of the culture at Parikrma – reflected in every element of the school, be it the pet dog kept at each school or be it addressing teachers as brothers/sisters.
This led to the home vs. school dilemma in students’ mind letting them bring negative behaviour from home into school easily. There was a need to set boundaries.
This was reinforced by introducing elements that make the boundaries clear – like behaviour contract signed between students, parents and the school, reinforced during sessions by psychologists.
“Some teachers are strict and follow the policy as is, some don’t and use their judgment to some extent” – School Head, Parikrma
Inconsistent implementation of the behaviour management policy in action was curbed by knowledge sharing among teachers and giving them different levels of independence in making decisions related to policy implementation.
Creating a positive ecosystem for the students
Crux of this study was the student’s mind – It was discovered that all students had an aspiration to move out of their current underprivileged state, wanted to have a good job and luxuries. What was different in generally well-behaved students was that they could project themselves in a positive way, while the disruptive students had low self-worth and limited projection of positive self-image.
This was reinforced through regular peer-to-peer mentoring, feedback and leadership roles given to disruptive students.
Parikrma Oxygen – a big step of Parikrma based on insights generated through this study. The NGO has invested in a dedicated place on the outskirts of the city which will transport them to another environment, where the students will engage in multiple extracurricular activities and would have the space to express themselves.
The study seeded different thoughts, elements and action-steps into the “Parikrma Culture” and ways of functioning, marking the beginning of a change and the impact will be seen in the years to come.
About the Author:
Karan Sadashiv Sabnis, Senior Research Manager, Insights Division, Kantar – India
Innovations Conclave 2019
Under the aegis of Global Citizenship Education, a collaborative initiative between Parikrma Humanity Foundation & Tata Communications, through Innovations Conclave we want to attempt reversing thinking trends across schools.
Last year, being the first ever event, saw active participation of 45 schools in Bangalore, this year we have 83 applications and we are thrilled. Schools from Pune, Dharmapuri, Dubai and London are participating in the event. This year’s theme is Sharing and Collaboration. We are really thrilled about the fact that this year we have 5 entries from government schools and that’s a very encouraging sign.
What is the objective of the Innovations Conclave?
The Innovations Conclave was designed to recognise schools that encourage children to think global and innovate in the realm of science and technology and liberal arts that can even be the first seed of social enterprise and entrepreneurship. Founder Shukla Bose explains further, “Our years of experience in academics has shown that there are isolated best practices in quite a few schools but no one knows about it as it is not shared. Our goal is to share these best practices so that the general standard of education goes up. Schools need to create a more transparent and sharing environment in India like other countries. It is important for schools to understand the importance of creating an environment of innovation and creativity and we believe that we can influence and inspire exactly that through the Innovations Conclave.”
The Guest of Honour was Chief Justice Venkatachalliah and the keynote speaker, Her Excellency Dana Kursh, Consul General of Israel, South India.
A one-man band - creating innovative and offbeat music using recycled materials... Montry from @thaalavattam does magic by breathing life into trash, yes that's right!
Panel discussion on 'how can innovation help India achieve UN Sustainable Goals 2030.
And the panellists were Yashas Karanam (Co-founder, Director, Bellatrix Aerospace) NM Prathap (youngest scientist, winner of Albert Einstein Innovation Gold Medal in the International Drone Expo 2018), DR Shanon Olsson (biologist, Fulbright scholar, Ramanujan Fellow) and CT Sadanandan (VP, CSR, Tata Communications). The moderator is Dr. Sandeep Shastri, political scientist, vice chancellor, Jain University.
The Best Innovative Idea went to:
Third place: Inventure Academy: Middle School for Empathy Project
Second place: Parikrma Junior College for Voices of Light Project
The first place: Government Primary and High School, Maruthinagar for the Recycle and Grow Project
Parikrma has decided to share the entire prize money with Saroja Academy for autistic children (one of the participating schools)
to support them in their projects.
Awards for Best Innovative Practices went to:
3. Haberdashe Aske's Girls School, London for Global Citizenship
2. The Orchid School for Stories of Migration
1. Sarala Birla Academy for Dancing Bear Conservation Project
We would like to the thank Tata Communications for spearheading this initiative with us and for being a consistent Parikrma supporter.
Founder Shukla Bose was invited to give a talk at the FUSO, Tokyo 2019. Here is the link to the entire talk:
I remember when I was a little girl in school, we would have speakers who would come and tell us about their work. On one such occasion, I got the chance of listening to an environmental engineer who was in the team that cleaned up Powai Lake in Mumbai. She took us through her experiences in cleaning the lake. She spoke to us about the environment and the world. She opened up our eyes to the apathy around us. She told us about the role we have to play. It really stirred something in all of us and surely inside me. Since that day, since I heard that story, I’ve felt responsible to reduce the indifference and apathy in whatever little way I can. There is so much more to do… But, every little counts.
So, it felt very satisfying, when I had the chance to tell a story for a cause that is dear to me with an audience which is so dear too, around ninety children from junior school and around thirty children from a middle school class, from the Parikrma School in Sahakaranagar, Bangalore.
On September 7th, I shared Cheekoo’s story, The Cloud of Trash, with the junior school kids and on the 11th in the middle school class as part of the Pratham Books Champions initiative, 2018. The children were very eager when they sat to listen to the story, which they usually are for all stories. I’m grateful to them for their enthusiasm in listening – Thank you children. (I volunteer at Parikrma where I share stories with children and am also trying to do my bit in implementing story based learning)
The moment I mentioned that Cheekoo was very sad because of the enormous cloud of trash above her head, their faces dropped. They were curious to know why all of this happened. And as the story unfolded, they shared experiences of when a friend dropped pencil shavings or bits of paper, in class, to which I responded and they agreed that we all make mistakes and that it’s best to correct our own mistakes and also gently remind our friends to work on theirs without name shaming.
They were happy at the moment when Cheekoo corrected Bala for the banana peel he was about to throw. There was a discussion around recycling and reusing when I mentioned what Cheekoo told Reena aunty. I spoke to them about upcycling and the minute they understood what it was, the children shared their experiences of craft activities in class using waste paper and other recycled materials. They were happy that the cloud above Cheekoo’s head was reducing in size. And were very happy to see Cheekoo smiling in the end.
The story ended with a conversation around our environment – clean and green. I mentioned that their uniform colours of blue and green are symbolic of this beautiful world, beautiful environment we live in. Teachers also addressed the children and told them about how it’s not just about littering in class or in the school compound or outside, but also about not wasting in the first place whether its food or other materials. Reduce!
We told each other that we would do our best to take care of our environment, not only because of the fear of the cloud of trash J but, also because we love the world we live in.
The session ended with a fun song, holding hands.
We sang the Hindi song, “Hariyali idhar udhar” and the English version of the same song, “The green grass grew all round and round”…
The energy in the room left me feeling positive and thankful.