Monday, April 26, 2010

good job or no?

As soon as I finish reading Diane Ravitch's new book (just a few pages away), I've got Alfie Kohn's Punished By Rewards waiting for me on my nightstand.

I was perusing today through "Five Reasons to Stop Saying "Good Job!" At first, I was skeptical. First, Kohn brings up his thoughts on unconditionality, which I first read in his article "Unconditional Teaching." It's a gem:
Imagine that your students are invited to respond to a questionnaire several years after leaving the school. They’re asked to indicate whether they agree or disagree – and how strongly – with statements such as: “Even when I wasn’t proud of how I acted, even when I didn’t do the homework, even when I got low test scores or didn’t seem interested in what was being taught, I knew that [insert your name here] still cared about me.”

This is something that hit home with me when I first read this article a while ago, and I try to keep this in mind as I teach. I think it's especially important with students with special learning and behavioral needs.

Instead of saying "Good Job," Kohn recommends:
* Say what you saw. A simple, evaluation-free statement ("You put your shoes on by yourself" or even just "You did it") tells your child that you noticed. It also lets her take pride in what she did. In other cases, a more elaborate description may make sense. If your child draws a picture, you might provide feedback – not judgment – about what you noticed: "This mountain is huge!" "Boy, you sure used a lot of purple today!"

If a child does something caring or generous, you might gently draw his attention to the effect of his action on the other person: "Look at Abigail’s face! She seems pretty happy now that you gave her some of your snack." This is completely different from praise, where the emphasis is on how you feel about her sharing.