Nice quote

"The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can." Neil Gaimon

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Article by Alfie Kohn to do with principles, assessments and intrinsic motivation

Cara Barlow shared this article on the Unschooling NH facebook page.  

Here are some of my favorite parts of the article. 
Regarding example 1 which was to do with math: 

 Some were taught the underlying principle ("The goal of a problem like this is to find ..."), while others were given step-by-step instructions 

...the principle-based approach was much better at helping them transfer their knowledge to a slightly different kind of problem

Direct instruction of a technique for getting the right answer produced shallow learning.

But why not do both? What if students were taught the procedure and the principle? 

Regardless of the order in which these two kinds of instruction were presented, students who were taught both ways didn't do any better on the transfer problems than did those who were taught only the procedure—which means they did far worse than students who were taught only the principle. Teaching for understanding didn't offset the destructive effects of telling them how to get the answer. Any step-by-step instruction in how to solve such problems put learners at a disadvantage; the absence of such instruction was required for them to understand.

Here are the things that stood out to me in example 2 which was to do with how assessments (grades vs narrative comments or both):

....students were subsequently less successful at the tasks, and also reported less interest in those tasks, if they received a grade rather than narrative feedback.

Grades almost always have a detrimental effect on how well students learn and how interested they are in the topic they're learning.

....the negative effects of grading, on both performance and interest, were not mitigated by the addition of a comment. 

....the students' performance was highest with comments, lower with grades, and lowest of all with both.

....the more traditional practice not only didn't help, but actually wiped out the positive effects of the alternative strategy.

And this also stood out - 

"Our original goals were to control student behavior and build community, but along the way we learned that these are conflicting goals." Only when the "doing to" is gone can the "working with" really begin to make some headway.

This section below I found especially worthy. Why? Because it can be difficult for some parents to trust that their child will read if and when they are interested and motivated and when they have their own intrinsic reasons for doing so. 

It seems prevalent in our culture for parents to sign their kids up for some kind of reward program to earn points, a bike, pizza, or or ice cream. 

There are even programs that encourage kid to read to dogs. The animals may like the attention. And maybe kids without pets might like reading to one. However, there are other authentic ways of helping one's child to enjoy the experience of being around dogs rather than pretending that it is somehow worthy or beneficial to read to someone else's pet. 

Kids are smart enough to realize that pets don't understand the plot and it is simply a ploy to get them to read. Tricking kids into reading seems condescending, disrespectful and untrusting.When kids realize that their parents, teachers and other adults believe incentives and/or rewards are required for a person to read, they may think that reading must be drudgery. Plus, if their parents, teachers and other adults don't trust them to read for the sake of reading itself, how can they trust themselves? 

In addition, a lack of trust in one area can undermine the confidence one has in other areas, especially where learning is involved.  For example, if a person feels they must have specific instruction or do specific things in order to learn something, they may believe that they must follow a certain order to learn in other areas too. If they believe they must be bribed to read, then they might believe they must be bribed to calculate, help others, write, take books out of the library, participate in physical activities, create art, etc.  

It is SO much better to help kids do what they are interested in, help them explore what they'd like and introduce them to things you think they would enjoy (respect it if they aren't interested!) and trust that they are continuing to build on what they already know just like they will be doing for the rest of their lives. People WANT to learn. Humans like to learn what they are interested in. If we are bribed, then we think whatever we are being bribed about must suck. 

Don't take away a young person's possible love of reading by bribing them! Some people will love to read and some will learn in other ways. We all learn differently and each of us have individual ways that we learn best. Don't spoil a child's love of reading by making it seem like it stinks! Because it is so wonderful for many people in oh-so-many ways!!!

Or consider a teacher who does all the right things to help kids love reading: surrounds them with good books and offers plenty of time to read them; gives kids choices about what to read and how to respond to what they've read; teaches them to read from the beginning through rich stories and other authentic material, with a focus on meaning rather than just on decoding skills. Sometimes, however, those ingredients of literacy are soured by the simultaneous use of reading incentives—either home-grown schemes or slick prefabricated programs (bought with precious book-acquisition funds)—that lead children to regard reading as a tedious prerequisite to receiving points and prizes. It's hard to treat kids like budding bibliophiles when they're also being treated like pets.

One of psychology's most robust findings is that extrinsic motivation (doing something in order to receive a reward or avoid a punishment) is completely different from—and often inversely related to—intrinsic motivation (doing something for its own sake). The more we offer rewards to "motivate" people, the more they tend to lose interest in whatever they had to do to get the reward.

Some behaviorists have tried to challenge the growing evidence supporting that contention, but the latest major research review—see Psychological Bulletin, vol. 125 (1999): 627-68—dispels any lingering doubt about a finding that has by now held up across genders, ages, cultures, settings, and tasks: Two kinds of motivation simply are not better than one. Rather, one (extrinsic) is corrosive of the other (intrinsic)—and intrinsic is the one that counts. To make a difference, therefore, we have to subtract grades, not just add a narrative report. We have to eliminate incentives, not just promote literacy.