I say well done and good job too much!

I take a fair bit of video in my R/1 PE class because it helps me identify student achievement. While I was watching a video of my students doing some ball handling skills, which included dribbling, catching and throwing I noticed that my feedback during that section of the lesson was a combination of phrases like well done and good job. While this type of praise can make students smile and feel good it does not necessarily improve learning.

I’m not discounting general praise statements, for some students it is exactly what they need. I could have however been providing my students much more specific feedback/praise to reinforce the cues I had asked students to focus on when they were catching, throwing and dribbling. For example – watch the ball (don’t look away), when you catch the ball have your arms outstretched not by your side, have soft fingers and big hands, use the tips of your fingers to bounce the ball not your palm and so on. By saying well done I am not acknowledging the specific learning the student has applied, for example, that was a great catch because you held your arms out in front of you. The child is much more likely to hold their arms out in front next time because I have positively reinforced that specific behaviour.

It is not new to me that specific/targeted feedback is more effective than general praise but that has not stopped me from defaulting to a natural response when a child does something well. During a fast paced and busy PE lesson it is easier to revert back to a natural response than it is to identify clearly to the student what they are doing well. It took a video of my teaching to remind me of that.

Have you ever seen or heard yourself teach?
What do you think you would discover if you did?

2 thoughts on “I say well done and good job too much!

  1. “Effective praise should provide the child with an idea of how to gain more praise.”

    I’ve just read Alfie Kohn’s excellent and evidence-based “Punished by Rewards” which focuses partly on teaching, and cautions against feedback which encourages extrinsic motivation such as this. It is worth looking at even to see if you agree with it or not.

    • Hi Julie thanks for the comment. I wasn’t sure if you were agreeing with the statement “Effective praise should provide the child with an idea of how to gain more praise” or not. As you have mentioned Alfie Kohn in a positive light I will assume you do not agree with it. I have not read the book you mention but I am familiar with his views and in general agree with him on a number of things. Is this quote from somewhere in particular or did it come from Kohn’s book? Just to clarify my position on feedback is that it should instruct the student on where to go next with their learning and/or reinforce that they have achieved the learning they were attempting.

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