Saturday, November 7, 2009

Praise or Not?

Over the last few weeks I have had some really interesting conversations with an up and coming teacher. One who has had a very different educational childhood setting from me. One that spans countries and teaching techniques - a world apart from my own. As we have spoken about behaviour management we have talked about 2 things in particular - the amount of praise given and praise "out loud."

To me praise is an important part of my classroom - I use it to celebrate success, thank students amongst a range of other reasons. I don't think I over-praise, I don't think I use it excessively and I don't praise unless I think it's deserved. But I think it's important that students are acknowledged for their efforts and part they play in the classroom.

I know a bit about praise used in contexts such as across cultures, where in some cultures praise isn't really given in a public setting, or at all. The last few weeks have really reminded me of this, while working alongside this teacher - as she thinks as a culture praise used too much and in particular to reward behaviour that should just be expected of our students. This is true to an extent, I guess. But for me I still see many of my students who lack the self-esteem and confidence and benefit from that extra boost - any way that it is given.

It would be nice to think that all our students are intrinsically motivated to learn, succeed and push themselves - but not all are. Some are built on the extrinsic motivation from home or previous schooling - whether it be toys, stickers or praise.

In an article from The New York called How Not to Talk To Your Kids - The Power (and Peril) of Praise it talks about a few studies undertaken looking at praise and how it is given and the validity/results of it. An interesting element of this article was a study conducted by Carol Dweck - looking at how different types of praise shifted the attitude or following steps a child took. Those praised more for their effort were interested in how they could improve vs those praised for being "smart" took the easy option. An interesting idea. If you are smart already - why should you try any harder?

There is a lot of discussion about children (also adults) being able to "sniff out" an insincere compliment - I think that this is a really important element in praising students - keeping it real. I also think students need to know why - verbalising the reasoning behind the praise.

It's an interesting article and one that has some valid points behind it that reach back to the conversations I have had in the past week. I think I would like to hunt around a bit more from Dweck's studies and the effects that it is having within an educational setting to those that have perhaps changed more to her format.

Used under CC: Gold Star by Lars_Ploughmann


Allanah King said...

Yes I very much agree. Especially I think overly praising the academically gifted can encourage them not try when they are challenged with a problem that they don't know how to deal with.

How not to talk to your kids

I think the same sort of thing applies to those 'good' kids who don't do wrong things- when something does go wrong they don't know how to deal with it because it happens so infrequently.

Heymilly said...

It's def an interesting article - I was so caught up in reading it I didn't even check the date and realise it was from 2 years ago! It just rang an interesting bell with the conversations I have had in the past few weeks in regards to this. Interesting how different peoples perspectives and culture also change this.

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