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 School Improvement:  Playground Studies
Working Together Easier First Implementation Action Plan Imperatives About RPS


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RPS results

About the Playground
Education is more about outcomes (what people actually do and experience) than about learning outputs (what they could do). 

Thus the most authentic appraisal of education takes place in 'unmanaged' situations such a the playground.


What is Happening?

Before we can begin to improve a situation we need to understand it.  Copying some 'good practice' from somewhere else will only be successful if the significant factors in both places are the same. Without knowledge (of both situations) this remains largely a matter of luck.


Things to know

  • Purposes? What should be happening in the situation, viz,  what should it look like, sound like feel like?
  • What is happening? Events, incidents, people's experiences: what does it really look like, feel like, sound like? Who Knows and who can tell? Collect data!
  • Collate & analyse  the data
  • Identify issues and opportunities


On this basis it is now possible to 

  • Plan: (re)-design for an improved situation
  • Do: develop the capacity for everyone concerned to achieve the purposes…
  • Study: monitor progress
  • Act: to achieve further improve or just maintain


Tools & tasks

  • Record sheets
  • Collate & Analyse
            Various Levels
            Individual, class, grade, school
  • Make the elements explicit
  • Work from real experience
  • Enable authentic learning by all concerned
  • Contribute to improvement
  • Benefit from improvement

Training:  Participation requires training and agreement on purposes, methods...

  • What these things means
  • Making an overall assessment
  • Sharing Responsibility
  • Everyone contributing

Collecting data on quality in the playground
Develop frameworks, measures & categories

  • Good day or bad day?
  • Being Hurt
  • Being Harassed
  • Problem areas

See the some sample results from April 2000


Working with others to achieve improvement

  • The data collection process involved class meetings with students at which
    • Issues and experiences were discussed
    • Possible improvements were identified
  • Staff teams collated and reviewed all material gathered from students in their classes
    • individual & class data
    • issues and experiences
    • suggestions for improvement

Making it easier for everyone to do well in the Playground


Redesigned Playground

  • Problem prevention – not counter measures, easier then better
  • Knowledge & Skills -  Rules & agreements + capabilities
  • Systems - Spaces, things, processes, equipment, monitoring, assistance, Safe School Committee playground development, participation……
  • Culture - Purposes, activities, relating, agreements, cooperation ……


  • Agreements
  • Coaching, Program Achieve…
  • Knowledge: harassment, inner experience…
  • Skills: play, conflict resolution…
  • Systems - making priorities, purposes & procedures explicit


Example response


Somewhat to the surprise of staff it was discovered that some Prep students (5 year olds) were often quite lonely in the Playground. The cause was slow eating!! By the time these students had finished their lunch, their class mates had dispersed across the the large school campus so it was difficult for them to find a friend to play with.  The solution?


Teach them to eat faster? Keep all the Preps together until the slowest eaters had finished eating?  The Prep teachers came up with a brilliant short term solution using a sheet of paper and and five words. They simply placed a sign in one of the Prep classroom windows: Need a friend? Meet here! and trained their slow eaters in what to do.


In the long term, this issue significantly changed the on-going development of the Playground resulting in a natural focal point for younger students where it was easy to find a friend to play with.

See Also
        Broken Windows a comprehensive strategy to prevent problems