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Paul Gildea asks what is the impact of group dynamics on motivation and self-esteem in the classroom?


The AR is based on the idea that all students are aware of where they reside in the academic hierarchy, not only across sets but within sets. Fred Glimp explored this idea first developed at Harvard University with the“Happy Bottom Quarter” admission policy. The idea was to admit students into this prestigious academic environment who were gifted in otther areas, primarily in Sports. Consequently, they will have high enough self esteem to remain positive when aware that they are in the lower quarter of the class.


Relevant reading/influences

  • Stereotyped at Seven? Biases in Teacher Judgement of Pupils’ Ability and Attainment TAMMY CAMPBELL Department of Quantitative Social Science, UCL Institute of Education, University of London
  • The Campus as Frog pond: An Application of the Theory of Relative Deprivation…
  • The American Journal of Sociology 72 no.1 July 1966
  • The Chosen: The Hidden History of Admission at Harvard, Yale and Princeton Mariner Books, 2006.


  • Assessed the self-worth of class and compare to their prior attainment and current Controlled Assessment – Compare student self-assessment with data led teacher assessment of students’ positions in the class
  • Trial strategies to raise aspirations/expectations/belief (see strategies below)
  • Assess progress – looked at progress of bottom quarter
  • Assessed self-worth second time.



  • Students’ initial self-assessment remarkably accurate. All bar 1 student accurately assign themselves correctly in the bottom quarter
  • The strategies used with bottom quarter, see below, had an impact. The students in the bottom quarter made more rapid progress than those students who viewed themselves as middle/upper within the set.


  • extra written feedback inc more positive feedback
  • verbal teacher feedback about ability and high quality of work
  • more in lesson support
  • positive communication with home



Two conclusions can be drawn:

  • Students from lower income backgrounds (PP) are more likely to view themselves as less able
  • Positive feedback, particularly verbal, has a significant impact on a student’s opinion of their ability and potential.

Next Steps


  • Continue to use these strategies and assess progress through Y11 with objective of all bottom quarter attaining  A/A*.