Monday, April 25, 2016

Chapter 11: Keep the Switch Going

The most important quote from this chapter is connected with its most important analogy "Long journeys require lots of mangoes." The idea being that as an agent of change it is imperative that you provide positive reinforcement throughout the process. The book suggests rewarding bright spot behaviors and focusing on any element of what was done that would contribute toward the end that you have in mind. There was even a story about a woman who changed the behavior of her husband using an incremental praise method.

Although the book points out the importance of using positive reinforcement, it also indicates that we (people) generally struggle more with providing praise than we do with punishing or admonishing those who do wrong. The book points out that it is easy to identify and react to problem behaviors, but much more difficult to find those behaviors which contain elements of the ultimate goal. I find myself struggling with this at times as a teacher. A student who completes 50% of his or her homework did -some- of the work. By assigning the 50, am I focusing only on the negative behavior rather than the bright spot? That same child may typically only do 25%, which would make 50% an incremental change. Having said that, the positive reinforcement here isn't to raise the child's grade. In reflecting on that, I have begun to make sure I praise the effort to get some of the work done and encourage the student to do a little more next time.

The one major question that I have been pondering since I read this part is: If an individual is aware that you are trying to encourage change using incremental praise does that make the praise ineffective because it seems contrived? How do you make your praise genuine and appropriate if the individual who you are praising knows that you have a specific goal in mind?

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Chapter 10: Rally the Herd

This chapter talked about the significance of and impact that can be created by looking at the behavior of the majority. People are greatly influenced by the behaviors of others and following their lead. There was one part that discussed a study that involved people in either groups of three or on their own in a room that was slowly filled with smoke and how a person in the trios was less likely to report the smoke because the other two people were not reacting to it. Similar situations happen all the time in classrooms where the behaviors of individual students are greatly dependent on their peers' behaviors or what they deem as the popular thing to do. As teachers, we have to try to make positive learning behaviors be accepted and followed by the majority...not an easy thing to do! This year, I have talked a lot with my class about the process of learning and how overcoming challenges make our brains stronger. It took some "rallying", but as each student bought into this idea, others followed and now my entire class gets really excited when I try to challenge them and they work hard to overcome it.