Friday, February 10, 2017

To Praise or Not to Praise - Tania Bullick

Recently I have been talking with teaching teams who have been grappling with the ideas around rewards and praise and what that means to and for children. Giving children stickers, stamps and sometimes food for tasks such as tidying up, for showing kindness to a friend or for having their nappy changed can be accepted practice by well intentioned teachers. Verbally rewarding children with praise such as ‘Good job’, ‘Beautiful painting’, and ‘I am proud of you’ can also be common practice. It is understandable that people might feel this is beneficial to children as society has encouraged reward and praise since the self-esteem movement began back in the 1960s, and some programmes continue to advocate tangible rewards and abundant praise.
Scratch the surface however and the research is clear. Rewards and praise (the verbal version of a gold star) just like threats, punishment and bribes, work to get children to do what we want them to do, to comply, in the short term, but do nothing to encourage “our children to become ethical, compassionate, creative, competent individuals, who have a strong sense of self, know how to think and not just what to think, who are naturally curious about themselves and the world around them, who don’t ‘do to please’ and are not easily led, who are willing to act with integrity” (Coloroso, 2002).

Carol Dweck’s research and work on mindsets has shown that the words we choose to use will effect the child’s mindset. The research found praising a child for how smart they were resulted in children giving up, unable to take a risk on more difficult tasks for fear of not being seen to be smart should they fail or make a mistake. They were also prepared to lie and cheat to cover up their perceived failures. However when children were praised for the effort they put into a task, they were willing to take risks, acknowledge and overcome mistakes and persevere with effort in the face of obstacles. This growth mindset enabled children to see learning as something that happens over time and involved challenge.
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