SBL Agreements – Why they are Important

Our aim by having Agreements with our students at SBL is to develop an understanding in our students that, by designing a set of agreements together, the agreements are internally motivated and not ‘school’ or facilitator driven – we want our students to understand that Agreements are each student’s personal responsibility to their community and to their peers.

In other words, we want our students to develop Agreements together because they care about being a kind, moral person, not just because they are required by the ‘school’ to do so.

In educational research, this is referred to as internalisation. Educational research in the area of behavioural studies have found that when schools and teachers use specific agreement strategies the students are more likely to internalise the agreements – they are more likely to make the agreements their own – than students that are given a clear set of rules and regulations with disciplinary procedures that they are expected to follow. The students, by far, see these as ‘their’ agreements, rather than someone else’s imposed rules, thus they are much more aligned to behaving the way that they have agreed.

What further strategies help our students to internalise our Agreements?

  1. As an SBL community, we design, construct, co-create and develop a set of agreements together that takes all opinions, thoughts and suggestions into account – it is always mutually agreed that these are developed in the best interests of all of the SBL community.
  2. Our students are always asked to design their own logical consequences instead of punishments.
    Logical consequences are consequences that are related to a student’s actions. Student designed consequences are more likely to result in our students actually taking responsibility for the problem created and are more likely to help our students to understand the significance of the agreement made.
  3. At SBL we practise ‘autonomy supportive’ agreements instead of ‘controlling’ rules and regulations.
    ‘Autonomy supportive’ agreements show that we acknowledge our students’ feelings about an agreement, we ensure that our students have choice and are involved in the decision making about any particular agreement, and we ask them to provide the reasoning behind the agreement. We do not subscribe to the idea that our students need to be ‘controlled’ and our agreements do not involve threats or punishments to make our students behave or to induce guilt or fear. Our ‘autonomy supportive’ agreements help our students to internalise guidelines, rather than induce fear. Our agreements are genuinely ‘autonomy supportive’, in other words, they support each student to be autonomous in managing their own behaviour.

How does internalisation take place?

Education research has found that when students feel less anger and feel more empathy in response to an episode of undesirable behaviour, they are more likely to find any limits in place acceptable. The research suggests that the more our students agree to behave in a certain way or the more they agree to a set of values, the more likely they are to appreciate and internalise the values that underpin the agreements.

Research also suggests that anger in response to a school or facilitator discipline strategy interferes with internalisation as it makes students think more about how unfair the discipline is rather than the values the school or facilitator is trying to teach. Research undoubtedly suggests that, student agreed limits increase empathy and are far more likely to enhance the internalisation process.Therefore, logical consequences and autonomy supportive agreement discussions with students are far more effective than any other approach as they significantly reduce frustration, fear and anger whilst conversely they significantly increase empathy.

The importance of our SBL Agreements cannot be emphasised enough. They are an integral part of the ongoing collaboration and discussion with our students and ensure that our students willingly engage in conversations about attitudes to learning that are important to them. We, as facilitators, guide our students in applying our agreements and below we share how we make this possible so that all of our students are part of our engaged community.

How do we apply them at SBL?

  1. We gently remind our students of the agreement before we even begin to look at logical consequences.
  2. We acknowledge our students’ feelings if they are not happy about an agreement.
    It is also important to note that we do have some agreements that not all students will like, however these are mutually agreed to be in the best interests of our community.
  3. We always decide on logical consequences with our students instead of punishments.
    Logical consequences are consequences created together by our students and facilitators and are related to the agreement – they make logical sense to all. Punishments are a negative consequence, usually unrelated to an agreement and cause frustration, anger and resentment. Logical consequences, on the other hand, are more acceptable to our students, and are less likely to cause anger and more likely to increase empathy.
  4. We provide our students with a choice to participate in decision making or problem solving in some way.
    If a student has difficulty with an agreement, we give them the opportunity to make decisions based on the best interests of the SBL community.
  5. We always explain the reasoning behind an agreement, we focus on the impact on others wherever possible.
    Explaining the reasoning reduces anger and increases their likelihood of internalisation. In addition, focusing on how the agreement impacts others can help to build empathy, which is key to internalisation.
  6. We always avoid threats.
    Threats are seen by students as controlling and merely serve to increase anger and frustration, this ultimately reduces internalisation.

It is important to note that are students are not just ‘participants’ in the agreement development process rather, they collaboration together so that there is a clear focus what is important to them. In this way, there is no need for ‘top down’ behaviour management policies and our students take full responsibility for leading and managing transgressions. Our students lead the SBL Agreements, occasionally with guidance, this facilitates a student body that is always valued, motivated and engaged to do the best they can for all involved.

Are you interested in SBL’s learning approach? If you would like to access more information about School Beyond Limitations or ask any questions, please reach out to us.

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