Are You Praising The Wrong Student Behaviours?

There is a quote I think from Carol Dweck “Acknowledge effort, reward results”. A good way to think about it is like the hot/cold game. Acknowledging the right effort as hotter and wrong effort as colder. The reward is the prize at the end. This means acknowledging effort that is not real effort only results in more of the same. It’s like saying hotter when they are getting colder. You are directing them away from the desired result. Let’s take a time practice log as an example. If you ask your students to fill in the log they may recognise that filling in their log regardless of the quality of their practice is all that is needed to receive praise for effort.

How do we know what’s right and wrong?

We do need to recognise real (right) effort when we see it and avoid acknowledging that which is not real (wrong) or verifiable effort. This can really only be done by observing the student usually in the classroom but you can also acknowledge effort that was done at home. If a student has made obvious progress since their last lesson there is an opportunity to acknowledge that effort. For example instead of saying “That performance was an improvement on last week” it’s better to say “You have obviously put in a big effort this week. Because that performance was an improvement on last week.”

What you praise matters more than how often you praise

A common mistake with teachers is the belief that all praise is good. This idea sounds nice in theory but it can very misleading. In the case of G4 Guitar teachers we see praise as important but it must be sincere and purposeful. We reward results via ticks and certificates but we acknowledge effort based on what we can verify oppose to a practice time log based on the student’s perception of effort. We are not saying that a time log is completely useless but simply that it is generally an unreliable measure of effort. We believe teachers need to get into the habit of recognising and acknowledging real effort as much as possible and to always be questioning what they are praising and the effects of that praise.

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