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Research School Network: Nudging For Change and Impact – Super Quick Read Establishing new habits, routines and approaches for school affected by the Covid-19 crisis


Nudging For Change and Impact – Super Quick Read

Establishing new habits, routines and approaches for school affected by the Covid-19 crisis

by Unity Research School
on the

The new challenges we are facing amid the Covid-19 affected school year is requiring schools to establish new habits, routines and approaches within their context. This entails behavioural changes for the whole school community, pupils, staff and parents to name but three bodies of people involved. Changing behaviours is a complex matter and habits are hard to break. However, behavioural science offers windows of hope and guidance.

The impact of Covid-19 has meant school leaders and teachers have met an unpredictable array of challenges. The year ahead will be crucial as schools re-establish routines and reconnect with pupils, so that all pupils go on to thrive.

Prof. Becky Francis - Chief Exec. - Education Endowment Foundation

The recently published EEF Guide to supporting school planning provides a useful framework to support planning for the academic year 2020 – 21, proposing a tiered model that focuses on high quality teaching, targeted academic support and wider strategies to aid school leaders’ existing school improvement planning. Behaviour change is inherent within all three tiers.

That’s where a favourite evidence-based resource comes in to play!


The EAST framework, developed by The Behaviour Insights Team, first published in 2013, focuses on four simple principles to encourage a behaviour – make it Easy, Attractive, Social and Timely (EAST). Employing these principles in practice help us harness the power of nudges
in order to influence changes in behaviour.

Executive Summary

If you want to encourage a behaviour, make it Easy, Attractive, Social and Timely (EAST). These four simple principles for applying behavioural insights are based on the Behavioural Insights Team’s own work and the wider academic literature. 

There is a large body of evidence on what influences behaviour, and we do not attempt to reflect all its complexity and nuances here. But we have found that policy makes and practitioners find it useful to have a simple, memorable framework to think about effective behavioural approached.

So, in an EAST inspired cut back’ fashion for the busy reader, it boils down to …

Make it Easy:

  • Harness the power of defaults – making an option the default makes it more likely to be adopted
  • Reduce the hassle factor’ – reducing the effort required to behave in the new way
  • Simplifying messages – making communication clear and simple, chunking for impact over time*

Make it Attractive:

  • Attract attention – using image, colour and personalisation to catch and maintain attention
  • Design rewards and sanctions for maximum effect – recognising efforts in changing behaviours

Make it Social:

  • Show that most people perform the desired behaviour – people tend to follow the crowd’
  • Use the power of networks – capitalise on existing networks in providing mutual support and spreading peer-to-peer encouragement

Make it Timely*

  • Prompt people when they are likely to be most receptive – when will the message be most likely to have the desired effect?
  • Consider the immediate costs and benefits – how can we reduce cost’ and increase benefits of the new behaviour?
  • Help people plan their response to events – help close the gap between intentions and actual behaviour

We’ve found these evidence-based principles really helpful to consider when planning for a wide range of school improvement activity. Bringing the principles alongside decision making in schools has been well received to date and in many cases highly influential in securing effective implementation.

As we navigate the demands and uncertainty of the coming months they provide a reassuring and eminently usable tool for leaders at all levels.

All the best with your nudging – and see if you can spot it in all walks of life, from government to retail!

Great further reading following on from this blog:

The Power of Habit – Charles Duhigg 

Inside the Nudge Unit – David Halpern

Related Podcast:

The duo are joined by Andy Samways, Director of Research at the Unity Research School and Unity Schools Partnership, to discuss the importance of research in schools and how this can improve outcomes for children. Andy also discusses the EAST framework from the Behaviour Insights Team and how this can be used effectively to support school improvement: Easy, Attractive, Social and Timely.Don’t miss Andy’s confession where we discover being prepared is only one key principle in teaching.….…having the right classroom also helps!

S2E11: EAST is East: Nudging For Impact with Andy Samways from Unity Research School - The Brick In The Wall
S2 E11 EAST is East Nudging For Impact with Andy Sa

Related Blog:

This blog expands on this super-quick read blog and offers 5 case studies as examples of research evidence in practice.

Putting evidence to work: 5 EEF resources we’ve been using amid challenging times

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