ClassDojo – Is it really worthwhile?

Over the course of my teaching career, I have had to consider how best I could utilise a behaviour management system in my classroom. When I started out as a teacher back in 2009, I taught 5th Class – 34 boys in a relatively small space with old furniture and no interactive whiteboard, in fact not much by way of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) resources at all. An effective classroom management tool was going to be crucial if I was going to make this first year a success for me and for the pupils.

This meant that I could not rely on any gadgets or graphical displays to assist me with classroom management. A simple teacher-made display sufficed, which was used to track and reward groups – not individuals.

Nearing the end of the second year of my career, we were blessed with a range of ICT equipment due to a grant from the Department of Education so this opened up a range of possibilities for me that I hadn’t previously realised. The following year I discovered ClassDojo. ClassDojo allows teachers to set up a way to individually track the behaviour of pupils in a class, by way of rewarding pupils with points or sanctioning them with the removal of points. Each pupil has an avatar of a little colourful monster linked to their name. The number of points currently held by the pupil is visible. All pupils’ avatars and points are on display together, projected onto the interactive whiteboard whenever the teacher chooses.

I tried this out for a few months at a time over the course of four years, each year hoping that I would feel more at ease using such a system, but each time I couldn’t shake the feeling that something about this method of classroom management didn’t seem right. I needed to give it a chance though, but I also had to question the system itself and my own reasons for using it. It was only near the beginning of the 2016/2017 school-year when I finally realised that ClassDojo was definitely not for me. The following are my conclusions about individual behaviour tracking using such a system.

  1. It is a distraction. The focus of any learning environment should be on learning opportunities and experiences, not on which pupil is the best at earning points.
  2. It is time-consuming. In a class of up to 30 pupils, the teacher will have her hands full with the responsibilities of teaching, learning and assessment. ClassDojo takes time away from these priorities.
  3. It ranks individuals within the classroom, for all to see. I imagine that the pupil with the most points feels pride, but what about the pupil currently languishing in last place? Any visitor to the classroom can see this and I doubt that this provides the lowest-ranked child with anything other than a feeling of shame.
  4. It fails to recognise that each child is different. A system that ranks individuals in such a manner will apply identical criteria to each child for earning or losing points. Certain children will always be better at manipulating such a system, while there will always be some who can’t be motivated to compete with those at the top for a variety of reasons.
  5. Such a system ignores and does not address the real reasons for disruptive behaviour. As teachers, we were all required to complete modules in child psychology and educational psychology as a part of our initial training. This was supposed to give us a basic, foundational knowledge of the way children think, and to aid us in applying our professional judgement to instances of disruptive behaviour. Losing a point on ClassDojo is a superficial way of dealing with such behaviour and appears on the surface to be a one-size-fits-all approach. The better response to disruptive behaviour should come from the teacher’s knowledge of the pupil, the context and the background, so that an appropriate and effective sanction (if necessary) or other response can be applied. ClassDojo does not solve the problem of disruptive behaviour.

This year, I have reverted to a group-focused reward chart as opposed to one for individuals. I went back to what I did in 2009 – a teacher-made display stuck neatly on the wall, away from any main focus within the classroom. I have found that attending to this is not time-consuming and that when necessary, I can draw the appropriate attention to it without it being a distraction. Points are not lost, they are only earned. This system encourages the pupils to work together within their teams, instead of only focusing on themselves. It’s not each pupil for themselves, it’s cooperation. Any instances of individual disruptive behaviour can be dealt with outside of such a system, where I can use my own professional judgement (within the confines of the school’s code of behaviour) to deal with the issue and to effectively encourage improvement.

ICT can offer us interesting tools, but it can’t take the place of human interaction. Teachers are irreplaceable.
***What are your thoughts? Leave a comment below.***

5 thoughts on “ClassDojo – Is it really worthwhile?

  1. Instead of ranking children against each other, a teacher could just implement a “when you reach 10, you get a homework pass”, a token economy for each child. After that, the child goes back down to zero, so even the most well behaved of children could be the “lowest-ranked” child at some stages. Every child can “win”. They are only in competition with themselves and no other. All can achieve.
    I’ve seen it in action in many classes, children really respond well to it.
    In regard to losing points on it, I think we’re in a dangerous culture of telling children “well done, here’s a prize,” both teachers and parents, the “millennial” children, as they have been coined, and almost afraid to take something away in case we hurt their feelings or impact on their self-esteem. It’s all about mindfulness and well being, after all. But when these children go out into the big bad world of adolescence and get their first real knock, they do not have the skills to deal with this, ironically leading to poor mental health.
    Take the points away when they’re 5. They need this important life skill.

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    1. Thanks for your comment!

      Some pupils don’t have the necessary “buy-in” to such a system though, and for whatever reason, won’t be motivated to earn points. Even with points being reset when ten of them are earned, some children may not even get this far. One could argue that a teacher could find a way to reward points to certain children outside of the norm for the rest of the class, but would this be meaningful? A reward system should be meaningful, otherwise it risks losing its value as a classroom management tool.

      I agree with what you say regarding children needing to learn the skills required for dealing with knocks or disappointments, however I think it’s more dangerous to award a point for coming in last place (for example), as opposed to losing one for whatever reason. It’s like telling a child “you can be anything you want to be” without finishing that sentence with “provided you work for it”. Reward systems have hidden messages!

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  2. You want something, you work for it. Another life lesson children need to learn.
    An inclusive classroom will include all children and will differentiate goals according to each child. On an individual system, what one child might be working towards e.g. Not shouting out, could differ from another child’s goal of playing well on yard instead of conforming to the “norm”, a set of behaviours laid out by the class and/or the teacher, setting some children up for failure immediately as some would struggle to ever reach these “normed goals”.

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  3. On the point that “some children might not get that far” I would argue that the targets for getting a point are not achievable attainable targets, something that all teachers would have had lectures on in college also, discouraging this kind of teaching. The responsibility would lie with the teacher in this case, I point I agree with you about, teachers and human interaction are irreplaceable. A computer system with ready set targets do not know a child, cannot help a child achieve their targets and cannot set targets that are attainable. The teacher, in conjunction with the child, should set out the targets.

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