I'm a learner, a thinker and I have a can do attitude. I teach because I like the idea of facilitating others to find their passion for learning, either in a specific subject area or generally. The concept that I wasn't doing the right thing by my year 5 & 6 students in terms of praise/motivation in the 21st century has given me much to think about recently. Fortunately, my PLN have come to the party by tweeting or emailing links for professional reading.
Among the readings have been these gems:
Presence, Not Praise: How To Cultivate a Healthy Relationship with Achievement
Debunking the genius myth
How not to talk to your kids
Thinking About Classroom Dojo – Why Not Just Tase Your Kids Instead?
They have certainly given me food for thought and have enabled me to evaluate what I'm doing in my classroom, why I'm doing it and whether it is working for my students.
This debate is typically about motivation, are kids doing tasks because they are intrinsically motivated and believe there is value in the process and outcome of the task. Or do they do complete them because someone is going to reward them with something (extrinsic motivation). Praise is also an intriguing topic that is worthy of further study (another time, another place!). NB: I haven't studied these areas and I'm not entering into academic debate with you.
What do I do?
I confess I do use Class Dojo. My class told me at the end of term 1 that they wanted hard work to be recognised individually, we negotiated a reward of 15 minutes of free time for the winner of each fortnight. I don't use negative points, its not the correct forum for discipline. I've also introduced categories for the NZC Key Competencies and PB4L, this works well in my classroom and the students typically don't cash in their 15 minutes. We're in our second term of using Class Dojo and the kids are recommending others get points, particularly for my favourite category "Thinking & Learning".
I'm not into bribing my students to get things done, I'll offer them the odd choice, e.g. "this afternoon we can either do Art or Language, it really depends on how much you get completed, the quality of the completed work and your behaviour while doing it. Your choice".
I love giving students a high five or pat on the back. Such gestures typically aren't accompanied with an explanation as they're spur of the moment when the student does something that deserves it.
As a class we talk about our choices and future, I hope for good things for all of my students and dare them to be brilliant. We love Kid President and I'm forever challenging these kids to follow their dreams.
My students demonstrate a mixture of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Some will engage with every task and illustrate a high degree of intrinsic motivation, however, others are clearly in a 'whats in it for me' mindset. I've been working hard all year to evaluate what works for each member of my class, some I still haven't figure out and continue to confound me. For others, I find that what worked yesterday doesn't work tomorrow so I'm just trying to get the combination right!
Where to next:
Reflecting on these thoughts has been enlightening for me. But I'm pragmatic and passionate about my teaching, so if you want to provoke/further my thinking feel free to drop me an email/tweet/comment. I'm a BT and happy to learn.