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“I am so proud of ME”

Date: May 18, 2015 Author: hpelc Categories: Centre Philosophy Blogs, Educators Blogs, Reflection Blogs

Exploring the role of praise and motivation in early education…

We know that a large amount of children’s learning happens between birth to five years. Our privilege, in early education, is that we get to play a part in who each child is through the time we spend guiding and engaging with them. One of the common learning areas we discuss for each child is development of self, identity and esteem. We want to guide children to be confident and committed to their learning, to be powerful as their own individual and to have a regard for self and others. But how do we get to this place with the children we are teaching.

Recently, in preparing families for the process of assessment and rating (which we will be going through in June), one of the families provided some interesting feedback, and this was in the form of an “I wonder” question. Handprints, from day one, has thrived in a philosophy and vision of wonder. Adult and child, we are all expected to question and learn. This particular feedback really captured the success of our philosophy.
The question – “I wonder, have you considered the role of praise used with children at Handprints ELC? Have you explored motivation for learning in the forms of extrinsic and intrinsic motivations?
Instantly, she had my attention and I was inspired. Praise, throughout my two early childhood degrees, was instilled as a way of managing behaviour. Positive attention for positive behaviour limits negative behaviour. It is a way of creating belonging when a child feels secure and confident in the environment. It is a way of encouraging a child to try something new. Praise, is in itself, a teaching technique.
But, as all good “I wonder” questions do; I began to read into motivations and some of my philosophies and beliefs about praise were challenged. In praising a child, are we building a reliance that you try something new because “I” want to; or because “you” want me to?
It is such an interesting subject to consider. How can we build the concept of “I am so proud of you” alongside that of the child developing the idea “I am so proud of me”? How can we motivate children intrinsically where their desire to learn comes from themselves, rather than a desire to please the adult?

So many “I wonder” questions!!
Don’t get me wrong. I still believe in telling the children when they do something that makes me proud and I believe there is a place for extrinsic learning in our environments, but I definitely am developing a desire to consider the words we use to develop a language, a monologue for each of our children, where they learn to find their own motivation in being challenged. Where they find a desire to persist with tasks because of themselves.
Based on all these wonderings and considerations into praise, a research story has begun. Across all the Handprints rooms in the coming weeks we will be considering the roles of praise and analysing how our children respond to the language used. I love when ideas are challenged and when learning extends from child to adult. So much excitement, learning, potential for change and growth!