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Education Reading Group – 31st March 2017

This week we looked at readings from the following books, all based around the theme of ‘Praise’:

  • Visible Learning and the Science of How We Learn by Hattie and Yates (2014)
  • Learning Teaching. Becoming and Inspirational Teacher by Boyd, Hymer and Lockney (2015)
  • Why Don’t Students Like School by Willingham (2009)

This is a theme that we had touched on in previous lunchtime meetings but never really had the opportunity to fully explore. A number of interesting points and questions came out today:

  • What are we giving praise for? It was felt that it can be quite easy to give praise without really thinking about why or whether it was fully deserved, particularly when conducting question and answer sessions in the classroom. Therefore, is the praise we give always genuine and, if it isn’t, does that de-value the praise that is genuine? Willingham is very clear that dishonest praise can be destructive and result in teachers losing credibility with their students.
  • Is the purpose to create better learners or better people? Hattie is very emphatic in stating that praise might make you happier, but it does not assist you to learn. However, does that always have to be our sole purpose?? It was felt that praise can be central in developing self-esteem, positive relationships and in encouraging effort and that all of these things can be equally important AND impact on learning.
  • How does praise link to our rewards system? This created quite a discussion about whether or not the right students are praised for the right things in the right way. It also led to consideration of our reporting system and how different colleagues interpret ‘effort’ in different ways.
  • Praise is a value judgement, but does that necessarily make it a bad thing?
  • Do some people require more praise than others, particularly if they don’t receive praise at home? Hymer suggests that the evidence is clear – praise can actually backfire on those children we think need it most, discouraging them from taking on challenges and causing them to miss out on crucial learning experiences. However, the experience of those at lunchtime today suggests that this is not always the case.

In fact, there were a lot of questions, but not always answers. Overall, though, it was felt that you cannot have a one size fits all approach to praise and that your use of praise in the classroom should be based on your knowledge of your students. What works well for one, may not work well for another. Once again, the importance of classroom climate and relationships are at the forefront of everything we do as teachers.

The next Reading Group meeting is going to look at differentiation. If you would like to join us, please let me know!