Tuesday, February 9, 2016

“I’ll Show Him”

Ever have a student who just didn’t seem to want to do his work?  If you did, did you ever try to do something about it, like maybe keep him in for recess to finish an assignment?  The book I’m reading right now, Visible Learning and the Science of How We Learn, states unequivocally that there are no major studies which support punitive actions if support of learning.  

I can’t know about you, but I know that I did that frequently and consistently.  Sitting with the advantage of hindsight, I can’t say that it was very effective.  In fact, even if I achieved my immediate goal of getting the student to do some work to avoid my punishments, the research implies that I have done more longterm harm than good.

There is at least some research done with high school students that demonstrated that teachers trained in building closeness with their students had a measurable positive impact on those students.  The pearl in that oyster is that the results didn’t show up immediately.  The results, instead, began to show in the year following.  That study didn’t consider the opposite case, that is, a campaign of power and coercion, and what longterm impact it might have on student achievement and attitudes about school and learning, but I’m guessing that the statistics might not be so positive.

This reminds me of Jim Fay’s stories (see www.loveandlogic.com) about how important a positive approach is for successful relationships.  One case in particular, a teacher who was given the very “worst” students to teach, who was successful in getting her students to engage because her primary emphasis was to build a strong personal relationship with each child. 

I’m thinking that the “reality therapy” part of student failure to engage is the honest reports home and, of course, low, even failing, grades. But I’m also thinking that under-performing students might respond to their reality more positively if they’re not actively fighting a teacher’s power moves and instead, feel that their teacher really wants to help them, not as a “student,” but as a real person.

Certainly, what I’ve said above falls into the category of, “Do as I say, not as I did.”

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