Thursday, January 05, 2006

Praise good pupil behaviour, teachers told

From the Guardian:
"'Catch 'em doing something right' seems to be the latest advice to teachers faced with unruly classes.

Children need praise for good behaviour as well as good work and constant telling off has little effect, according to three psychologists who today outlined a short training programme which they claim has helped to improve classroom behaviour dramatically."
What's with this 'latest'? Bit of a seventies revival this one, is it not? They've been peddling this one certainly since I was at teacher training college. I'm not knocking it completely; one can get good results by following these 'new' guidelines, I've found. For instance:
"always make instructions to the class extremely clear"
I do this; on my classroom wall is a list of simple rules, to which I draw the attention of the class. It has some simple, easy to understand instructions like, "hurting people is wrong", "arson is completely unacceptable" etc. It's better to tell them 'cos you've no idea how many wouldn't know if you didn't tell them. But when you're standing in front of a class telling a bunch of fifteen year-olds how to use scissors and glue without harming themselves, you just can't get away from the feeling that someone else hasn't been doing their part of the child-rearing shift.
"look for the behaviour you want, not the behaviour you don't want"
Yep, do that one too. Sucks when you look for the behaviour you want and can't see it, though. And someone tell these "researchers" that the real bad shit, behaviour-wise, is pretty difficult to avoid.
"frequently acknowledge students when they are doing what is required"
Again, I'm never done doing this: "I salute the fact that you got through 55 minutes without harming yourself and others, young man", you will frequently hear me say.

There is a element of truth in this 'new' research but the problem with this sort of thing is it invariably takes on, for a few years at least, the status of The Answer. But it isn't, of course - and the law of diminishing marginal returns set in pretty quickly with this one. It is good to praise kids for making progress, especially if they come from an environment where they don't hear too many positive words. But it's effect is limited and there's little point in dishing out praise gratuitously. This is one where it's limitation perhaps becomes most obvious when they leave: people raised to expect a round of applause every time they do what is expected - indeed, need a round of applause in order to do what is expected - are going to have a few problems in life, problems they don't need.

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