Promoting Excellence in the Classroom

Resources, ideas and prompts for discussion related to Challenge and Engagement

What is it and how does it work?

To promote challenge and your high expectations of standards of work, our aim ought to be to immerse our learners in an environment that promotes this. There is much discussion about the value (or lack of value) of classroom displays vs. the time they take to put up and maintain, and whether they clutter the learning environment or cause a distraction. However consider an Art classroom for a moment…

…Often when you walk into an Art room that houses a great Art teacher you are surrounded by examples of superb student work amassed over a number of years; adorning the walls, the windowsills, even hanging from the ceilings! This could be an incredibly helpful and encouraging message to share with students:

  • This is what excellence in Art looks like.
  • This is the standard we expect you to aim for and replicate.
  • Look at it and consider why it is excellent, these were once students at the same stage in their learning journey as you!

Not to discredit other subjects, there are examples of other classrooms very much like this, however we sometimes spend more time laminating/backing/meticulously aligning something to a wall that may have less immediate relevance to the learning content we are covering with pupils.

Why not blow up and display that amazing History essay that your Y10 did, annotated with why it is so successful? Why not dedicate a display space to the exemplary science experiment write up that shows clearly how a learner met and even surpassed the success criteria? These can become resources to support and promote excellence in their own right, and a school can become a ‘gallery’ of the success created within it.

W.A.G.O.L.L Wall

What a Great One Looks Like: Quite straight forward in that a WAGOLL Wall shows clearly the standards we are aspiring to and may also include advice as to how this was achieved.

Technique Displays

For example if there is a key technique used regularly in lessons, perhaps in writing, why not have a great example of this clearly displayed and large enough to be referred to and used so excellence can be made visible. Example below is PEEL in writing answers…

Modelled Responses

Modelling is covered in more depth elsewhere on the site, but in the context of high expectations and challenge this is linked to providing the guidance and structure for the top grade/level of answer you would expect for a critical task. It could be providing advice for an an essay style or well structured response in GCSE English or in Science or Geography (particularly at A-Level), or ensuring learners really address the full breadth and depth of criteria to be successful in coursework elements of a host of subjects. It almost combines the WAGOLL idea above with the expertise of the teacher in an ‘I do, we do, now you do…’ approach.

Celebrating success with Walls/Halls of Fame

Depending on the layout and nature of buildings, you could celebrate excellence (and it is good to do this and make celebration and worthwhile praise a normal thing for learners to experience!) by displaying the great work on a Wall of Fame in a classroom or some schools have gone a step further and created Halls of Fame. The point being it still focuses on being driven by the work of learners from that school, with the highest standards displayed with pride of place. There are logistical issues that sometimes have to be considered with this and again it should be about costs vs. benefits but to just give some examples, some will simply laminate the work and attache it to display boards/behind display screens, and others have even made use of old and unwanted frames to make it have that visual impact and status! Once these sort of resources are established they have been known to be used for:

  • Subject exhibitions: at a time in the year a subject invites others to come and look at what is displayed to share examples of excellent work. Alternatively if there is some work that could stimulate a current class to aspire to that standard then they could be taken on a ‘trip to that gallery’ (i.e. a walk next door/down the corridor…with the blessing of teacher neighbours!).
  • Supporting transition: Some schools have written to their primary schools and asked for examples of the most amazing work from incoming learners. These get a place on the Wall or Hall of Fame before the student arrives to immediately make them feel valued and part of the school they have joined.
  • Public viewings; okay, perhaps not a free for all/open-house! But much like Art Departments sometimes invite Governors or parents in to view examination pieces by the incumbent year groups other subject areas could do the same to provide concrete examples/or they can simply get noticed during Open Event tours.
Pete Jones – Assistant Headteacher and Art(!) Teacher – shared his Ethic of Excellence hall displays that he introduced at Les Quennevais School in Jersey. These have pride of place in prominent areas of the school and have examples of all forms of work (including particularly impressive past/mock Maths papers framed!)

Associated further reading and references:

  • ‘Chapter 1: Challenge’, in Allison, S. and Tharby, A., 2017. Making Every Lesson Count. Carmarthen: Crown House.