Tuesday, June 17, 2014

For Kids With Low Self-Esteem, Excessive Praise Has Unintended Consequences

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"New research from the Netherlands finds inflated acclaim for kids’ accomplishments can backfire as a motivational tool.
When we sense a child is feeling insecure, our tendency is often to shower him or her with effusive praise. It’s a lovely, compassionate impulse, but it’s also one you may want to resist.
Newly published research suggests that, for the kids most likely to receive it, exaggerated acclaim may do more harm than good.
“Inflated praise, although well-intended, may cause children with low self-esteem to avoid crucial learning experiences,” writes a research team led by Utrecht University psychologist Eddie Brummelman.
Specifically, the researchers write, rave reviews for a mundane accomplishment can convey an unintended message: Now that you’ve excelled, we’re going to hold you to a very high standard. Since youngsters with low self-esteem are driven by a desire to avoid failure, this can prompt them to avoid challenges.

“Inflated praise, although well-intended, may cause children with low self-esteem to avoid crucial learning experiences.”

“Inflated praise contains an implicit demand for continued exceptional performance,” Brummelman and his colleagues write in the journal Psychological Science. While this unspoken message can inspire kids with high self-esteem, it can have the opposite effect on their less-secure peers.
The researchers describe three experiments, the first two of which show that children with low self-esteem are the ones most likely to receive excessive praise from adults. The third was designed to show the results of this dynamic.
The participants were 240 children, ages eight to 12, who were visiting the Science Center NEMO, which the researchers describe as “the largest science museum in the Netherlands.” All began by addressing six self-esteem-related items from the Self-Perception Profile for Children. They read statements such as “Some kids are happy with themselves as a person” and responded to them on a four-point scale, from “I am not like these kids at all” to “I am exactly like these kids.”
They then drew a copy of a famous painting—Wild Roses by Vincent Van Gogh—which, they were told, would be assessed by a “famous painter.” After purportedly examining their drawings for a few minutes, this fictional expert wrote each child a note. Some said nothing about their work; others presented restrained praise (“You made a beautiful drawing”). Still others featured inflated praise (“You made an incrediblybeautiful drawing”).
Finally, the kids were given a choice between complex and simple images they could attempt to imitate for their next drawing. They were told that “If you choose to draw these difficult pictures, you might make many mistakes, but you’ll definitely learn a lot, too.”
As the researchers predicted, inflated praise led children with low self-esteem to choose the less-challenging assignments. For children with high self-esteem, it had the opposite effect, increasing the likelihood they’d pick the more difficult task.
“Our findings suggest that inflated praise triggers self-protection motives in children with low self-esteem (‘I want to avoid revealing my deficiencies’) and self-promotion motives in children with high self-esteem (‘I want to demonstrate my capacities’),” the researchers conclude.
Brummelman and his colleagues acknowledge that the difference between “inflated” and healthy praise can be subtle. In their experiment, a single word—“incredibly”—pushed the comment into the “inflated praise” category.
“This single word may feel quite large to children with low self-esteem, who fear that they might not be able to perform incredibly well in the future,” they write. In response, these kids might “avoid crucial learning experiences—a process that may eventually undermine their learning and performance.”
So, parents and grandparents, if you sense little Johnny or Jill could use an ego boost, feel free to praise them—but don’t go too far. Setting standards they fear they’ll never be able to meet is the easiest way to drive them back into their comfort zone—a place where there is little chance of failure, but few opportunities for growth.

Academic research supporting the impact of exercise on learning

"The current study has clear educational implications. In fact, the experimental condition was methodologically designed so that could be easily replicated in schools. For example, the only equipment needed that schools may not already have in inventory is a set of reasonably priced heart rate monitors. Also, a 12-min exercise session is brief enough to be realistically integrated into a typical school day. Physical education (PE) classes could intentionally be scheduled before academic classes. PE classes could also be required to include acute aerobic exercise, thereby allowing students to reap cognitive and academic benefits as well as the intended physical benefits. Unfortunately, instead of capitalizing on PE, there is a current decrease in the number of high schools offering PE and PE is rarely a required college requirement (National Association for Sport and Physical Education, 2010). Further, PE classes are being cut most often from schools in lower-income communities (National Association for Sport and Physical Education, 2010).
In summary, an acute session of aerobic exercise improved the SVA of both low-and high-income adolescents. The improvement seen in the low-income adolescents was so large that their SVA abilities matched those of the high-income adolescents after just 12-min of aerobic exercise. Further, the benefit to SVA lasted for 45-min for both low- and high-income adolescents. Moreover, the mean reading comprehension score of low-income adolescents who engaged in an acute session of aerobic exercise was higher than that of low-income adolescents who did not engage in any exercise. In fact, the mean reading comprehension score of low-income adolescents who engaged in an acute session of aerobic exercise was as high as their high-income counterparts’ mean reading comprehension score. The field of education is in need of research-based interventions that are low in cost and easy to implement in low-income communities (Institute of Educational Sciences, 2014). Based on the results of this study, we encourage the implementation of an acute session of aerobic exercise as such an intervention."


Saturday, June 7, 2014

What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades

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"Does handwriting matter?

Not very much, according to many educators. The Common Core standards, which have been adopted in most states, call for teaching legible writing, but only in kindergarten and first grade. After that, the emphasis quickly shifts to proficiency on the keyboard.
But psychologists and neuroscientists say it is far too soon to declare handwriting a relic of the past. New evidence suggests that the links between handwriting and broader educational development run deep.

Children not only learn to read more quickly when they first learn to write by hand, but they also remain better able to generate ideas and retain information. In other words, it’s not just what we write that matters — but how."