The DfE Go Chomping at the BIT

7 January 2017

In Schools Week today, there is an interesting article that revealed how the Department for Education are recruiting a team of “behavioural insights” experts. So why are they chomping at the BIT (in this case, the Behavioural Insights Team) and why is this useful knowledge for schools?

In the Schools Week article, journalist Billy Camden writes how: “the team is also expected to help policymakers adopt a more “customercentric”, behavioural approach when making “key” decisions.” Now, this all sounds rather like corporate jargon and may stick in the throat of some teachers out there, but in reality the research undertaken by the Behavioural Insights Team is really interesting. Made popular by the book ‘Nudge‘, behavioural insights offer a useful lens onto the psychological drivers that appear to change the behaviour of people in all sorts of contexts. Of course, teachers and school leaders are busy thinking about doing this every hour of the school day!

Our Director of Research School, Alex Quigley, has written in his blog about the usefulness of the EAST framework from the aforementioned Behavioural Insights Team – see HERE. Crucially, the research and insights of the BIT experts provide us with a useable framework for classroom behaviours, as well as thinking through whole school implementation of changes. Just like the DfE, schools, TSAs and MATs could all do with surveying the work of the BIT.

Only this morning, at Huntington, we were having a discussion about the wearing of lanyards. It may appear trivial, but these small habits accumulate into what proves to be the culture of a school. They matter. The BIT experts devised the EAST Framework and it is very useful in this regard. It states that if we want to nudge a person’s behaviour (let’s not call them ‘customers’ please!) we should consider the following:

Make the desired behaviour Easy.
Make the desired behaviour Attractive.
Make the desired behaviour Social.
Make the desired behaviour Timely.

You can apply this to getting people to wear lanyards, to getting students to do effective revision, and so much more. Most helpfully, they offer us a simple method for modelling a project, divided into four main stages:

1. Define the outcome
Identify exactly what behaviour is to be influenced. Consider how this can
be measured reliably and efficiently. Establish how large a change would make the project worthwhile, and over what time period.

2. Understand the context
Visit the situations and people involved in the behaviour, and understand the context from their perspective. Use this opportunity to develop new insights and design a sensitive and feasible intervention.

3. Build your intervention
Use the EAST framework to generate your behavioural insights. This is likely to be an iterative process that returns to the two steps above.

4. Test, learn, adapt
Put your intervention into practice so its effects can be reliably measured. Wherever possible, BIT attempts to use randomised controlled trials to evaluate its interventions. These introduce a control group so you can understand what would have happened if you had done nothing.”

The emphasis on deploying useable evidence for solving a problem, piloting, undertaking meaningful research is exactly the type of behaviour that the DfE should be doing, but schools should be doing this too. The potential rewards are significant and it wouldn’t necessarily need extra effort, but just a savvier method of school implementation. You may not see the DfE given credit a great deal, but for their insight to employ “behavioural insights” experts, they should be.


If you have been suitably nudged, take a look at the full EAST Framework document HERE. To find out more about the BIT team, go HERE.

To take a look at Schools Week, go HERE.

Posted on 7 January 2017
Posted in: News
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