Ben Looker

A former assistant headteacher will be passing on knowledge gained through his research degree to students at the University of Worcester to help them improve problematic behaviour in the classroom.

Ben Looker


Dr Ben Looker spent six years looking at challenging behaviour and how it manifested itself, developing a theory to resolve it, to complete his Doctor of Education (EdD). Having ensured these learnings are in the curriculum to benefit the University’s Education students, Dr Looker, a Principal Lecturer in Secondary Science Education at the University, has now graduated.

“It’s a bit of a relief, but also it feels good to have done something I’ve wanted to do for a long time,” he said. “I’m proud of the theory. Hopefully as teachers graduate and take this learning into Worcester schools we’ll get an increasingly greater depth of knowledge about teacher-pupil relationships, so potentially it’s quite wide reaching.”

Dr Looker, of Stourbridge, taught at schools in the Birmingham area for 11 years, first as a science teacher and then an Assistant Headteacher at The Kingswinford Academy for three years. During that time, he provided mentorship for a number of the University’s students, which led him to take up a position as a lecturer alongside his EdD research.

“I was always interested in children who presented with bad behaviour, but behaved really well for some teachers,” he said. “I wanted to look at these children who were essentially alienated from their learning in some lessons - what made the relationship with teachers positive or negative.”

He collected data, interviewed a number of teachers and pupils and ran a teacher questionnaire.

He developed a theory for his observations, the Implicit Pupil-Teacher Social Contract. “It’s based upon trust and mutual respect,” said Dr Looker. “The pupils trust that the teachers will behave in a way that treats them with respect and vice versa.

“Say the pupil does something to break that – if the teacher breaks the contract back, what that means is the relationship breaks down. The idea that came from this was that teachers need to try to repair the contract so effective teaching can continue.”

The theory is part of the PGCE Secondary curriculum at the University from this academic year. Dr Looker has trained staff and is also training staff at a few partnership schools.

Now he is looking at further research around teacher-pupil relationships and the social psychology of education.