Class Don’tJo

After a promising start, I’ve become a bit disillusioned with Class Dojo. In case you are unaware, Class Dojo is a behaviour management system – their words – which promotes positive behaviour in the classroom. I won’t explain it in detail. Have a look here for more. Kids love it because they get points and create a wee avatar for themselves. Teachers love it because they can display progress on the projectors and whiteboards in their classroom. Win/ win? Well, I’m not so sure.

What started well – the younger kids were constantly asking about points and competitive to get to the top –  it became exactly that. A competition. After a few weeks, inevitably perhaps, the ‘running order’ took on a familiar look. The boys who had previously been poorly behaved started to drift to the bottom of pile – it is not so easy for them to remain consistently on task, or always stay focused – and others began to pull ahead.

The system began to reaffirm the class stereotypes and reaching the bottom become a race and then, inevitably, an identity. I’m fully prepared to put my hand up and admit that it could have been my failure to implement the system properly but class dojo wasn’t working for me.

As Shirley Clarke says:

‘Children who are used to rewards tend in future not to choose activities when there are no rewards to be had, and also prefer less demanding tasks.’

It had become a system of rewards with an inevitable ending. I may as well have hung a string of mars bars at the front and promised them to the good kids. My reading and understanding of Mindsets didn’t seem to square the circle. Points didn’t add up for me. (sorry). Having had a similar experience with Accelerated Reader I have now, perhaps temporarily, stopped using Class Dojo.

However, the point of this post is not to be negative about a resource that others are using more constructively than me. The whole point of my blog is to reflect and discuss. What was I doing wrong? Or what was wrong with Class Dojo I could fix before giving up on it?

My biggest problem was/is with the original ‘reward’ list, both negative and positive.  My 30 mixed ability S1 (year8?) kids had no problem with the good things. They could ‘do’ teamwork; they generally ‘helped others’, participated, often worked hard, were on task etc. Although I really believe that vague comments about hard work don’t help.

However some of these young kids come from chaotic backgrounds where disruption, disrespect and the absence of anywhere to even do homework is a real problem. Of course schooling should be about teaching them these qualities but making that very public is really bad, in every way. Sorry. I found that many were switched off when they started losing points for this and many were always going to do that.

I’ve stopped using it for the moment until I can come up with a set of ‘rewards’ that all can realistically achieve, consistently. Getting the comments right will be essential if this is to really work beyond a bit of fun. Otherwise it is merely a tech tool which is only skin deep and, potentially, very damaging.

5 thoughts on “Class Don’tJo

  1. Very interesting post. I’m not really a fan of points and reward systems ( even though I used to like getting those things myself as a child)They lead to one winner and a whole lot of losers. Their words not mine.

    I much prefer intrinsic reward. A job well done, felt from within, is so powerful.

    This is, naturally, much harder to foster in children from chaotic backgrounds who often have an almost feverish acquisitive streak stemming from deprivation.
    I prefer to follow the model of a janitor I once worked with. He took the school football team but was respected across the school. He gave scant praise beyond the occasional “no’ bad son” or ” aye, ye did alright the day boys”

    In my own context, I am very clear beforehand about what impresses me and I acknowledge achievement accordingly but I try not to belabour it. Indeed, I usually end my praise with a quiet ” ..and that’s exactly what I expected from you.” I’d like all my pupils to feel someone genuinely believes in them so they will come to believe in themselves.

  2. I wonder if perhaps it was the criteria for reward that has led to this stratification?

    I have used ClassDojo with a number of classes and have faced the same problem with some of those. However, with others (where the goals have been a little different in their construct) I have seen prolonged success.

    With those where ClassDojo seemed to fare less well, I now only use it occasionally and with specific tasks so that it is both relevant and maintains a little of its freshness.

    I will be keeping an eye on your post to see what others come up with.

  3. Kenny – thank you for this well-written, thought-provoking post.

    I’m Sam, the co-founder & CEO of ClassDojo, and a former teacher myself. I’d really like to speak with you to ask your advice on what we can do differently to build specific positive behavior in classrooms. I’d love it if you could help me learn what would work better for you.

    Can we find time to speak this week? Do let me know when might suit you – I really appreciate it 🙂



  4. Have you looked at the work of Dr. Fred Jones? Honestly, if I hadn’t gone to a conference of his in 2001, I would not still be teaching. It is class management for people who understand that you can’t just throw Mars bars at kids. It’s not theory, it’s boots on the ground, in the trenches, how to get it done. I know I sound like an ad, but really, I’m a believer. I’m happy to answer any and all questions you have about his educational psychology in practice. (I am in no way associated with his organization other than I’ve used his practice for 11-12 years.)

  5. Pingback: ‘Eggciting challenges’ (or maybe the egg will be on my face).` « stilllearing

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