How to Create an Accountability System in Your Classroom
By Amanda Smith
Accountability is one of the most important concepts to teach a child. Teaching students how to respect one another and work together as a team will help them succeed throughout their academic and working career. Here are seven steps to help create an accountability system in the classroom.
1. Redefine Group Work
Almost all students have had some experience working in groups. They have most likely worked in groups to complete large projects or worked with partners to complete smaller assignments. As the first step in creating a classroom accountability system, it is important to educate your students about what it really means to work in groups. Teach them how working with others holds them accountable. It is also a good idea to set up standards for group work in your classroom. Encourage students to hold each other accountable by limiting the amount of teacher facilitation. This will help students find ways to solve problems on their own and support one another during the process.
2. Design Behavioral Expectations That Encourages
It can be very difficult for students to understand getting punished when someone else is causing a problem. Often times, teachers want to be fair and reward students for positive behaviors, and punishing the group conflicts with this. However, it is interesting to see how students tend to support and encourage one another when they know that the class is being judged as a whole. This is a great way to change behaviors and encourage team building and trust. Use the analogy of working for a company. Encourage students to recognize they are affected by their classmates' behaviors and participation and teach them ways to support one another in a positive and effective way.
3. Create Team Challenges and Contests
Divide students up into equal groups and have them compete in various categories such as "best attendance" or "best group to turn in homework." You can come up with your own creative ideas for contests. Give students small incentives such as pizza parties or bonus points. Be sure to have the class create a poster with a bar graph to chart progress. This will encourage group members to work together and hold one another accountable to increase the likelihood of winning.
4. Perform Peer Reviews Often
Having students edit each other's work is a great way to encourage them to work together and learn how to communicate positively with one another. Talk with students about positive feedback and constructive criticism and encourage them to use these skills when reviewing each other's work. Students will be more likely to complete assignments if they know they are being reviewed by a peer. Be careful not to allow students to grade each other's work. The purpose of editing and reviewing the work is to help their peers achieve the best grade possible, it is not meant to be used as an assessment tool.
5. Encourage Students to Participate in a Classroom Phone and Contact List
Although you cannot mandate that students communicate with one another outside of class, it can be very rewarding for students to develop academic relationships outside of the school setting. When students have questions about assignments, they should be encouraged to contact a classmate. This creates a system of trust and accountability because students often feel the need to have the resources they need to help each other. Students sometimes like to contact each other in other ways such as texting or using social networking websites. Make sure that students feel comfortable disclosing their information and make sure that you are acting in accordance with school and parent policies.
6. Create a Website or Internet Forum
With the high use of technology, students are often more comfortable with using computers as a way to communicate and receive information. Many schools use specific websites that are designed for student interaction and posting of classroom information. This is a wonderful way to encourage students to keep up with their assignments. Posting their grades and all assignments on the website decreases the number of times students will come to you asking about their grades. It also gives them a visual aid to help track their progress. If the website is kept up and used routinely, students will be able to go to the website for all of their classroom needs instead of relying on their teacher and making up excuses for misplaced work and materials.
7. Designate Office Hours
It is very important to establish personal accountability among students. If students would like to discuss their grades or issues within your classroom, it is a good idea to block off a certain time in your schedule when students can meet with you. This can be during or after school. Encourage students to take it upon themselves to come to you with any issues they may have. This can be very challenging as most students are used to teachers holding them accountable for their grades and assignments. They may not be used to having to keep up with their own progress. It is important that they learn to advocate for themselves and take the steps needed to resolve their own issues with the class.
All ideas are based on the author's work and educational experience.