Saturday, November 1, 2014

British Education and Press Also Have Problems

I'm overseas for a few weeks so I've been watching the BBC.  They've been running a story this week that is disappointing to me in that I think it's a little dumb and sensational.  It makes me feel a little better about the US press and their lousy coverage of education issues.

The BBC reporting of a Sutton Trust Research Study is this:

Teachers who give struggling pupils "lavish praise" could make them even less likely to succeed, research into classroom tactics has suggested.

The Sutton Trust education charity has warned that many strategies used by teachers have no evidence to show that they really work.

Listening to this story, one is inclined to think of a country full of well-intentioned but naive teachers that are lavishing praise on students that don't deserve it.  This cheapens the praise, convinces the kids that the teachers are clueless, and has all sorts of other counterproductive side effects.  

 But, the story never says that teachers are actually lavishing praise inappropriately.  And, every teacher guide or textbook that I've read over the last 30 years makes the point that student feedback is important and should be done strategically. For instance, students effort and actual successes should be praised, the student himself (or herself) should not be over-praised. It's the effort or achievement which gets the note. Feedback should be specific and constructive. etc etc.

Now I haven't reach the original study so I don't know if the study suggests that teachers need retraining or not. My suspicion is that most educational researchers are pretty smart and so what they were studying were some nuances of feedback and praise in certain circumstances to see what worked better.  But, I'm guessing, the BBC prefers to stay away from such technicalities and prefers the somewhat sensational story that the teachers need to stop handing our unwarranted praise. Since there is no basis for saying that, they just infer.

As I'm doing. I am infering about what they did but then, I'm a private American blogger writing primarily for my own amusement, not the British Broadcasting System. If I was, I'd be better.

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