American psychologist pronounces……………..and I put my head in my hands!

Kindadukish's Blog - I am not a number, I am a free man (The Prisoner)

Teachers should not award prizes to star pupils in assembly, an education expert has claimed. 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…

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Fighting Back Against “I’m Terrible at Math”

Teacher Learns to Code


Many teachers, and many people in general feel terrible at math. In the article, The Myth of “I’m Bad at Math”, by Miles Campbell and Noah Smith analyzes this phenomenon and makes a very compelling case for why this is so dangerous in our society.  They say “We hear it all the time. And we’ve had enough. Because we believe that the idea of “math people” is the most self-destructive idea in America today. The truth is, you probably are a math person, and by thinking otherwise, you are possibly hamstringing your own career.”


I grew up thinking I was bad at math.  Many of us did!  I believe this phenomenon is part of why I’ve never (until now) considered that computer programming was even worth trying to understand. “I’m terrible at math”, is something that many of us feel completely comfortable and even proud saying to pretty much anyone.

When we think about a…

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Don’t “friend” your doctor or your kids’ teachers

doctor_shows_the_way_to_a_woman_1600_wht_8489It will end in tears , or worse.

Young doctors are apparently having trouble being objective and truthful with patients because they are blurring the boundaries between their personal and professional relationship.

These doctors are allowing patients to call them by their first name, be a friend on Facebook and even greet them with a hug.

They have now been warned that overstepping boundaries could lead to charges of violating professional guidance.

Once they have become friends it’s harder to have difficult conversations and break bad news. More than half of doctors surveyed said they had trouble telling the truth to patients they liked. and felt that if they were too empathetic they couldn’t make difficult decisions.

Half of the doctors surveyed had given patients their personal numbers, a fifth had accepted social invitations from patients, and 14% had accepted them on Facebook! What are they thinking!

Doctors are encourage to be more empathetic with patients but, as Professor Fallowfield from Brighton and Sussex medical school said, a pat on the arm is sufficient.

A spokeswomen for the General Medical Council said that “the rise in social media also brings new challenges and doctors must consider the risks involved and the impact it could have on the relationship with patients. Our guidance explains that the standards expected of doctors doesn’t change because they are communicating through social media rather than face-to-face”.

It’s not just doctors either. Some therapists and social workers introduce themselves to patients by their first name. I noticed at a treatment centre this week thats as nurses came out to call in patients they more often than not used a first name. Mine called me by my full name and that’s fine. Let’s have a friendly face but some clinical detachment.

And teachers have a special responsibility for your children when they are at school but that doesn’t mean you have to be  friends with them. You wouldn’t want your kids to be singled out as a teacher’s pet or not be given objective feedback abut their progress would you?

They say “fences make good neighbours”; maybe maintaining professional boundaries ensure a better quality service for us too.

Good Teachers set up Children for Life

Mike the Psych's Blog

P1000830_2Unfortunately there are not enough of them. The government wants to do something about it but it takes time.

I’ve posted before about some of the ridiculous ideas to deal with poor teachers and what some head teachers have said eg about the firmness of their breasts and why their pupils are thick (inbreeding apparently).

I’ve also complained about the way weak heads reward failure and recycle poor teachers by giving them good references. Well no more it seems.

Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, is finally introducing new powers in September which should enable poor teachers to be dismissed within a term rather than in a year as at present. The present 3 hour limit on observing teachers in the classroom will also be scrapped so schools can use their discretion.

More importantly the recycling of poor teachers – letting them move elsewhere with a good reference, what Americans…

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Sugar ‘n’ Spice v Slugs ‘n’ Snails

And the girls are winning according to research at the University of Kent.

Girls as young as 4 believe they are cleverer than boys and better behaved.

Boys try and stick up for themselves but by the age of 8 they have accepted defeat.

They accept that they are naughtier, less able to focus and not as good with their schoolwork. And what’s worse is that adults reinforce these beliefs. With those kind of expectations what chance have boys got?

The way children are taught has been blames by some experts with the emphasis on collaboration and the removal of competition alongside the risk-avoidance, health & safety culture. It’s not very PC to suggest that boys and girls are actually different and most boys would rather be chasing around being adventurous than sitting quietly and sharing.

I’ve posted before about the princess syndrome Princess on board” and parents only have themselves to blame for that aspect. Praising kids for anything they do can turn them into little egotistical monsters who run the risk of growing up to be narcissistic adults who believe everything is about them.

And teachers can be a problem too. For a start there aren’t enough male teachers in primary schools to be role models – almost 30% of primary schools have no male teachers and in nursery education it’s even worse. There are only 44 male nursery teachers teaching under-5s in this country. (Men are scared away by being thought of as paedophiles).

So with an increasing number of lone parent families and no male teachers many children are brought up without male role models. They can’t even turn to fantasy figures any more as these are seen as sociopathic and violent (see “Sexist superheroes”).

No wonder that many boys give up and underachieve – even the ones who get to university. And the current recession is only making things worse for them (see gloom for male graduates”).

Originally posted  by MikethePsych in September 2010

Teachers must do better

Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, is proposing that trainee teachers will only be allowed to take their numeracy and literacy test three times.

At present there is no limit on the number of times the tests can be taken.

In my view the misguided philosophy of endless retakes undermines the whole point of exams and goes some way to explain why exam grades appear to improve year on year, plus team course assessments which are open to all kinds of fiddling.

Looking at the examples of test questions reported in the press, many of them multiple choice, anyone with a modicum of intelligence should pass with flying colours the first time. Rather than wait until the trainees start their courses wouldn’t it be better if they took the tests as a selection filter so if they failed they didn’t waste their time and our money on resits which they might fail? That would save everyone’s time and protect our children from bad teachers.

Gove also proposes that teachers should all have at least a 2:2 degree. Whilst this is more contentious most averagely intelligent graduates obtain this class of degree and if they can’t they don’t deserve to become a teacher. This is a vast improvement on former Ofsted chief  Zenna Atkins who (in)famously said “every school should have a useless teacher….”

Something needs to be done when 20-25% of children leave primary school unable to read or write properly and the last Chief Inspector of Schools admitted that only 4% of schools offered “outstanding teaching”.

And he wants to make it easier to sack bad teachers. There are an estimated 15,000 of these of which less than a dozen have been dismissed since 2008. He probably needs to toughen up some head teachers before that happens as in the past they have had a habit of giving references to poor teachers to move them on or otherwise rewarding poor performance (see “Don’t reward failure”).

One of Gove’s earlier ideas was to follow the US example and recruit and pay ex-soldiers to train as teachers to help improve discipline in schools. Ex-army graduates would receive 6 weeks training and non-graduates would be paid a £9,000 a year bursary to complete a two-year degree. Of course the unions don’t like it but it worked in American where research shows that ex-soldiers were better at dealing with classroom disruptions than regular teachers and also got better exam results.

And there was a great article in The Times magazine this week on Charlie Taylor who runs Willows School; which deals with London’s naughtiest children and which has been rated as “outstanding” by Ofsted. He is also the newly appointed “behaviour czar”. The article describes how he uses a range of positive psychology and behavioural techniques. He believes that if discipline is carried out consistently the core group of trouble makers can be reduced to a manageable size. He wrote a book called “Divas and door slammers” in which he describes how he won one group over by being civil with them.

He also believes that the ratio of positive to negative feedback needs to be 6:1 (something I have long advocated in performance appraisal schemes). He also believes that teachers get better results from constructive praise. Things might be looking up for the future of our children’s education.

Originally posted in July 2011 by Mike the Psych

What every child needs

The nature v nurture argument is probably best thought of as an agricultural model: your genes are the seed with the potential to flourish providing you have good soil, nutrition, and a supportive environment.

Much of the nature – nurture research has centred on twins separated at birth or comparing identical and non-identical twins. J McFadden’s article in the Guardian (10 July 2010) reports on new twins research from  Florida State University on reading ability which has added a new angle. They have assessed the teachers as well by comparing changes in grade averages for everyone in that teacher’s class.

They discovered that the differences in reading ability between identical and non-identical twins was greatest in classes with good teachers.

So if you have a good teacher your genes  will make a difference. With poorer teachers the differences were less pronounced because it was the environment rather than the genes which had the most influence.

In other words good teachers get the best from pupils whereas poor ones allow the child’s backgrounds to affect their performance. Jeanette Taylor, the author of the study, said; “Better teachers provide an environment that allows children to reach their potential“.

I wrote in an earlier posting about how we now know from geneticists that excellence is not just down to genes but the effects of the environment which can modify their impact; “Practice makes perfect...”. So whether it’s teachers or coaches, good ones make a real difference.

So just how wrong-headed were Zenna Atkins’ remarks last week about every school needing incompetent teachers? Her widely reported remarks in the Sunday papers, for example, received well-deserved criticism from just about everyone.

Ofsted, the supposed champions of educational standards is prepared to put up with 17,ooo sub-standard teachers, it’s soon-to-be departing chairman makes ill-informed remarks, and the General Teaching Council has only removed 18 bad teachers in 10 years.

Due in part to lack of leadership in head-teachers who prefer to give them references and let them move on (and for which they should be sued by the receiving schools) rather than manage their performance.

So where is the leadership needed to ensure children get the education they deserve and we need as a country?

Originally posted on EI 4u July 2010

Only emotionally intelligent teachers need apply!

Would-be teachers need “emotional intelligence” (EI) as well as academic ability according to the education secretary Michael Gove.

Gove also said that  there are academically bright people who “can’t teach for toffee”.

Then there are some who “aren’t the brightest but have the EI and spark to engage a classroom”.

The government previously said that teachers should only be drawn from the top-tier  with no funding for 3rd class graduates. And isn’t it only right that teachers who are responsible for developing EI in schools should be emotionally literate themselves?

The government is planning a shakeup of teacher training with more emphasis on learning in the classroom (the end of “death by Powerpoint” training). The teachers and lecturers’ union ATL is against it as they don’t believe teaching is a craft but a profession which requires a strong theoretical base before classroom teaching starts.

Gove also intends to reform Ofsted (the source of the idea that all schools should have a rubbish teacher. See: “Every school should have one”). Ofsted will no longer assess schools on equality, community cohesion, and children’s spiritual development. The inspections will be limited to 4 key areas: teaching standards, leadership, pupil behaviour, and achievement.

The changes will be brought in next year and mean  that Ofsted will no longer spend time on the peripheral, some might argue politically correct,  issues introduced by the Labour government and schools will no longer be rated on them.

As Gove says; “we need to refocus inspection on the principal purpose of schools improving teaching“.

Original post on EI 4u November 2010