Singling out pupils for praise ‘does more harm than good’ because others will resent them and the recipients can feel embarrassed

The Mail is reporting warnings from an American education expert that teachers should not make public individual displays of praise such as awarding prizes to star pupils in assembly…

Marvin Berkowitz said it caused ‘collateral damage’ because other children can resent the recipients who themselves can feel embarrassed. 

Teachers should instead praise pupils individually.

Speaking at a conference in Glasgow, Professor Berkowitz said: ‘My elegant advice to you about rewards and recognition is the following: stop it. Replace it with individual affirmation.

‘All I have to do is go up to my pupil, put my hand on her shoulder and say, “I saw what you did. That was so kind. Keep it up”. 

‘No audience, no one else, walk away – and there’s no collateral damage that we get from the other stuff.’

He said the effects of being singled out for praise could stay with children for years afterwards: ‘Some of those marks are temporary and wash away, some are scars that will throb with pain for the rest of the child’s life…’

More at: Singling out pupils for praise ‘does more harm than good’ because others will resent them and the recipients can feel embarrassed, says expert

 

Would you agree with the point made here by Dr Berkowitz or see things differently? Please let us know in the comments or via Twitter…

 

Don’t forget you can sign up to receive our daily email bulletin every morning (around 7 am) with all the latest schools news stories. Your details will never be given to anyone else and you can unsubscribe at any stage. Just follow this link

'Coasting' schools: Unions warn over academisation 'conflict of interest'
How to help young people with autism stay on in education after school
Categories: Teaching.

Comments

  1. So happy this is being discussed! There is no need for this kind of recognition. It wastes people’s time and promotes such a narrow kind of ‘success’ which pulled me off my path as a student who received this kind of praise and, over time, shut down the confidence of my brilliant peers who had to watch this praise-show. So, despite doing brilliantly at school, by our school-system standards, I’ve now “Apprenticed Myself” to the field of Education to try and understand this system that I experienced as a student. I’ll never again go into any class or learning environment with award ceremonies or public praise. I’ll never help promote places that do this. I’m learning so much now from teachers who never do this. They are wise.

  2. No more Oscars, or Olympics, or Top-of-the-Pops, or Grand National, or F1, or ‘Desert Island Discs’ then?  It might hurt the competitors who don’t make it…

  3. Mike Bell LOVE all those things Mike! Would be a terrible shame to see them go just because we can’t differentiate between what’s happening in inter-school competition and your examples. Everyone involved in your examples are there because they either self-selected for fun (like Big Brother and Take Me Out) or they are in those circles because of dedicating themselves to that field (like the Oscars and the Olympics). None of them are there because of an age + post code combination and none of them are the subject of being compared to others purely because of sharing an age + post code. The rest of my reply is in this post which went out on an Education Website a while back: “My School’s Better Than Yours!” http://leahkstewart.com/competition/

  4. BehaviourA

    This is hardly news and we don’t need an ‘American expert’ to tell us this. Understanding more about motivation is important for all educators (and parents). Recognising and encouraging excellence is of course important, but so is avoiding discouraging those who struggle and can never compete on a level playing field.

    Recognising other ways of being valuable – not just academic excellence/ outstanding talent in sport/art/ music is a start.

  5. BehaviourA

    This is hardly news and we don’t need an ‘American expert’ to tell us this. Understanding more about motivation is important for all educators (and parents). Recognising and encouraging excellence is of course important, but so is avoiding discouraging those who struggle and can never compete on a level playing field.

    Recognising other ways of being valuable – not just academic excellence/ outstanding talent in sport/art/ music is a start.

  6. teach_well

    The sheer folly of this is ridiculous and is just a regurgitation of the ‘no-one wins or loses on sports day’ argument.

    This is one person’s view, not based on any research of children and it just smacks of someone taking an anecdote from a very oversensitive individual who needs to grow up.

    Harm and trauma are not caused by such things (for that I suggest that you look at children in war torn Syria or who had to live through the horrors of the Holocaust) and if you can’t deal with feelings of resentment and envy in a positive way then that is a failure of supporting children to cope with feelings that arise in us all. 

    The idea that a child should not be praised publicly to stop other children feeling a certain way is so ridiculous I can’t even believe that it is being entertained. Should some children also be discouraged from answering questions correctly in case it upsets other children? Maybe we could ask them to be less intelligent, read less well, solve fewer calculations, not learn their lines for a school performance and so forth. We wouldn’t want to cause envy or resentment would we?

    If the Professor wants to help then here’s a tip:

    Teach children what envy and resentment are and why we feel those emotions.

    Teach children how to channel those negative emotions into something positive – i.e. what can I do to improve? how can I achieve the same? What is holding me back?

    That is what positive people do with those emotions and learning the habits of people who are successful in not letting negative emotions hold them back is a tried and tested method by thousands of individuals.

    When I started my Research Masters, our HOD told us the following:

    “You will come across others who are more intelligent than you and you will have to make a choice – will you help or hinder them. I recommend helping them as hindering them will not make them less intelligent, just make you a worse human being.’

    Wise words indeed which I have always heeded.

    Teaching children that their emotions are controlled by external factors and not their own ideas and thoughts is a sure fire way of causing mental health issues among children.

  7. teach_well

    The sheer folly of this is ridiculous and is just a regurgitation of the ‘no-one wins or loses on sports day’ argument.

    This is one person’s view, not based on any research of children and it just smacks of someone taking an anecdote from a very oversensitive individual who needs to grow up.

    Harm and trauma are not caused by such things (for that I suggest that you look at children in war torn Syria or who had to live through the horrors of the Holocaust) and if you can’t deal with feelings of resentment and envy in a positive way then that is a failure of supporting children to cope with feelings that arise in us all. 

    The idea that a child should not be praised publicly to stop other children feeling a certain way is so ridiculous I can’t even believe that it is being entertained. Should some children also be discouraged from answering questions correctly in case it upsets other children? Maybe we could ask them to be less intelligent, read less well, solve fewer calculations, not learn their lines for a school performance and so forth. We wouldn’t want to cause envy or resentment would we?

    If the Professor wants to help then here’s a tip:

    Teach children what envy and resentment are and why we feel those emotions.

    Teach children how to channel those negative emotions into something positive – i.e. what can I do to improve? how can I achieve the same? What is holding me back?

    That is what positive people do with those emotions and learning the habits of people who are successful in not letting negative emotions hold them back is a tried and tested method by thousands of individuals.

    When I started my Research Masters, our HOD told us the following:

    “You will come across others who are more intelligent than you and you will have to make a choice – will you help or hinder them. I recommend helping them as hindering them will not make them less intelligent, just make you a worse human being.’

    Wise words indeed which I have always heeded.

    Teaching children that their emotions are controlled by external factors and not their own ideas and thoughts is a sure fire way of causing mental health issues among children.

  8. teach_well Great comment teach_well, I’m liking the discussion here. If we forget about other people’s views affecting us for a second and look at just one person who happens to not know themselves enough to help others in their biggest and most fulfilling way: this person can, in our society, end up in a whole load of jobs across many powerful industries including education at any level. If they are not fulfilled by the work (and this is likely if they don’t know themselves) then they will find other ways to make it fulfilling and so, if they are intelligent/capable, they are likely to want that recognised and rewarded for this own merits. They will organise competitions that are compulsory for people in their circle. If they can’t make the competition compulsory they will peddle the idea that if you don’t compete you’re ‘chicken’. And so the cycle continues. Children in these environments learn the value of comparative intelligence and speed and winning without the time, mind-space and non-judging support to know what they would do with their precious time and gifts if these contrived competitions were not going around them as they grow up. I’m not here to deny how exciting and fun REAL competitions are, for more see this post of mine: http://leahkstewart.com/competition/

  9. teach_well

    Leah @LearntSchool teach_well

    I understand your point about falsely engineering competition however I was taught at some point (because I have always done this) that the most important competition was with myself not others. Have I done well? Am I improving? What do I need to do next? Also my attitude to someone doing better than me was to try to do my absolute best but also to recognise that there are others who are talented and gifted in ways I am not.

    This didn’t cause me any internal pain, I just knew what envy was and what it felt like and how to handle it. 

    In addition, it is the ethos that one promotes. I always had a trophy for the highest achiever, highest progress made and best behaviour. Two of the three therefore did not rely on academic success alone and everyone was in the running. It was up to them whether they were able to take the trophy at the end of the year. In addition, my way of tackling behaviour was to emphasise effort because if a child perseveres in a task and is consciously trying to make the effort, without fear of failure (another thing I would tackle right from the start, along with notions of perfectionism of which there are too many in our society) then it would mean that they would have to show the good learning behaviour, otherwise it would not happen. 

    We used to have an honest system in one of the schools I worked at – we always differentiated and then awarded each piece of work the following:

    NA – Not achieved (the learning objective)
    PA – Partly Achieved
    A – Achieved
    AW – Achieved Well.

    The point being that any child of any ability could gain an A or AW if they showed effort and a bit of grit in the face of it all.

    I also believe in admitting when I have got it wrong and they did not learn as much as they could have done due to the way I structured the lesson. I would have discussions all the time with the class and what they thought which I reflected on and introduced to class as much as possible.

    We have to actively teach children about positive and negative feelings, strategies for handling them and reinforcing this on a regular basis. If instead we do what the author of the article states, which is to simply remove the source of the discomfort we do our students a great disservice as it means that they will never learn about those feelings or how to handle them. Just experience them in ignorance which does not make a happy child.

Let us know what you think...