A bit of stimulus to begin with:
I was in Kenya over Christmas. To be honest, I was underwhelmed, the lions just loafed about and the giraffes were average at best. The Boy was indifferent to the animals, he’s seen them on the telly, but what you don’t see on the telly is the poo. He was fascinated by the poo. £3000 to see poo. I’m told this was an excellent deal. AND I had the joy of spending a week with my Mother in Law. Apparently I had a wonderful time.
My point. We don’t see what they see. What we value they don’t value.
We have missed the point about display.
Count the number of passes made between the players in this video:
The case for the prosecution:
Visual scenes are cluttered and contain many different objects. However, the capacity of the visual system to process information about multiple objects at any given moment in time is limited.
Or, more simply:
Converging evidence from physiology and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies suggest that neural correlates underlying this limited processing capacity are competitive interactions that occur automatically among multiple stimuli present at the same time in the visual field. Multiple stimuli have been shown to compete for neural representation by mutually suppressing their evoked neural activity throughout visual cortex.
(Miller et al., 1993; Kastner et al., 1998; Reynolds et al., 1999 cited in Mcains & Castner 2011)
….there is generally a feeling that display of children’s work is beneficial, with all users of the school studied by Maxwell (2000) agreeing that display of students’ work made the school more welcoming. Although Alexander does question the wisdom of displays being pursued as ‘ends in themselves’ (1992, p.38), and Dudek (2000), with an architect’s eye, sees the display of children’s work as making the visual aspect ‘cluttered’, other writers argue that they increase feelings of ownership and involvement, leading to improved motivation (Killeen et al, 2003).
Maxwell’s (2000) study demonstrates that perception of the adequacy of display may vary between school users. She found that although the parents, teachers and students all appeared to appreciate the display of work, the adults thought the school achieved this while the students were less satisfied.
FInally a report from the basic skills agency:
The way in which practitioners approach their environment reflects what they understand about how children learn and this is where much more thought and consideration is needed… All too often, the environment is planned by adults for adults, yet we know that the space belongs to and is for the children,’ says Lesley Staggs. ‘This routine error can lead to a crucial lack of focus and confidence regarding what is right for children.’
This was roundly and narrow mindedly condemned as absolute garbage by the NAHT.
The case for the defence:
There is a problem with this study, which is the quality of the questions, which are loaded and imply there is a correct answer. The children felt that tidiness was more valuable than display. But the questions were so loaded that the children still agreed that inside was better then outside. Very strange.
An extract from the conclusion:
“I was particularly struck by one response to a question about which displays the children would change. Sophie selected a certain board, telling me that whilst it was very attractive, there was nothing on it that could help her to learn….”
I offer a set of alternative guidelines:
Apply good advertising & architecture principles, minimise the impact of the clutter and maximise the impact of the message.
“Gossage’s basic philosophy of advertising stressed the importance of a single advertising message delivered with respect for the intelligence and values of its audience. An advertiser who prepares a targeted, interesting and entertaining ad would no more have to run it multiple times than the newspaper has a need to run the same page one headline day after day.”
Provide a single, clear message for the lesson, reduce the visual stress for the children, remove any clutter which will detract from that.
Provide a space that kids deserve – not a space that they perceive that you want, they will reflect back exactly what the teacher has told them is important. Remember that for kids, the golden rule of school is to give the teacher the answer they think the teacher is looking for.
Here’s a teachernet article about display: The best it can do, is cite unsubstantiated research suggesting that children learn best when engaged in their classroom, and use that to prove that existing display good practice works. Schools have developed a set of rules and regulations about display, together with misquoted and misaligned research from third parties. Many policies cite compliance as a goal, others cite a range of beliefs about the impact of display. Have we descended into faith driven pedagogy with reductionist measures of compliance? Is that wise?
Does double mounting matter?
Does the number of staples matter?
What matters is impact, not what is currently advocated as good practice.
The Manifesto for display:
- Put a concept or image in the middle of a plain board and change it daily or even every lesson.
- Get rid of all dust gathering time soaking displays.
- Blog children’s work, then the world can celebrate it, not just those with a CRB who made it past the gate and the administrator.
- Focus on the message you intend to deliver.
- Do some research with the kids, asking far better questions than above and establish if this works. Keep a log of the number of behaviour incidents you have before and after the change. Verify that it has made an impact.