Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Dan Pink - candle experiment


Dan Pink on the surprising science of motivation Video on TED.com

Dan Pink shares the candle experiment which shows how rewards help us to focus down on a task. This has an upside and a downside . If the tasks are simple , manual and involve very limited cognitive skill, and where the solution is pretty obvious rewards can help do these tasks much more quickly than without the reward. The downside - where the task involves some thinking , a wider vision, exploratory thinking , the reward does the opposite - shuts down creativity because it narrows our vision.

We can see from the candle experiment that when people are self determined and feel autonomous , they are more competent where creative skills are needed than people who have been motivated by extrinsic factors like money.

The experiment has lots of implications on how we relate to children , their education and promoting cognitive skills essential for communication and life in general. Rewards interfere with the learning of cognitive skills, CPS - collaborative problem solving promotes cognitive skills.

SDT - Self Determination Theory researchers hold that when people's needs for autononmy, competence and relatedness is supported people become more intrinsically motivated.

Dan Pink talks about autonomy , mastery and purpose. What about relatedness ? . I think relatedness needs are met in the context of purpose.

Here is another animated you tube by Dan Pink

Drive - the surprising truth of what motivates us

I like to share 2 comments which I liked.

The human brain's thought patterns can be separated into awareness and instinct. The neocortex is responsible for awareness, logic, creativity etc.. and the reptilian or basal ganglia is responsible for flight or flight syndrome (instinct). When a person is relaxed their thought patterns are predominately in the neocortex resulting in creativity, logic, etc.. When someone is excited, motivated, pressured, etc.. the thought pattern is moved to the reptilian brain.Placing a greater risk or reward (money) on a the subject would naturally take the individual out of the neocortex (awareness) and focus their thought pattern in the the reptilian brain (instinct). This dose not mean the subjects were not motivated by the monetary reward. The reality is more than likely the contrary.we did similar experiments in my undergrad -Inverted U theory - Spence Spencer

The research than Dan's work is based on is from self-determination theory which says that people are naturally predisposed to be intrinsically motivated and that their environment can either encourage or undermine this, depending on the extent to which it fulfills these basic needs (in the original theory they are autonomy, competence and relatedness). If they aren't intrinsically motivated, it is possible for them to "internalise" the value of what they are doing so that it fits with their values and they care about it. It's still extrinsic, but it's more important to them.The reason I mention this is that, in the work context, people will not feel intrinsically motivated on every task that they perform and this will change over time (You can't release someone if they stop being intrinsically motivated) but they can internalise the value of what they are doing. Creating an environment which fulfills these needs will help to do that and will lead to positive behaviours. - Bex Hewit

From the Self Determined theory site ' Some of the most surprising insights to emerge from SDT research call into question the traditional use of incentives. For example, behavioral research has shown that extrinsic rewards, like money or grades, actually undermine a person's interest in voluntarily engaging in a task. In short, rewards can backfire.

Kou Murayama from the University of Munich, Germany explored the neurobiology underlying this counterintuitive finding at the conference. In a recent study, Murayama and his colleagues scanned the brains of participants before and after completing a timed task. One group of participants was promised a reward. A second group performed the task with no incentive, although afterward they were surprised with compensation.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the study showed that entirely different areas of the brain are activated by the same task depending on whether a person anticipates a payoff or not. When focused on a reward, the brain switches off those areas associated with voluntary or self-initiated activities. '

Monday, August 30, 2010

Well , what do you think ?

'When kids ask whether it's OK to do something , it often makes sense to respond with ' Well, what do you think ?' This lets them know that their viewpoint counts , and also invites them to play an active role in considering the implications of their requests ' - Alfie Kohn Unconditional Parenting

We don't really have to wait for kids to ask us something , we can initiate conversation and connection by sharing something we have read , seen or heard , sharing a personal dilemma and then asking ' What do you think ?. It is important for moral growth that we help children think and take a perspective but also consider what other people could be thinking , their motives , perspectives and their concerns. We don't need to wait for problems in our family or personal lives to engage in problem solving. Problem solving is a process that needs practice. Dr Greene talks about a kid needing between 30-40 problem solving experiences to become skilled and trust the process. When we chat about general stuff, other people's problems, national issues – we talk about concerns, perspectives , problems , brainstorming solutions using sequential and consequential thinking, hindsight and foresight – problem solving skills.

The question – Well , what do you think is very much part of the mentoring relationship. We parents are essentially mentors for our kids , the guides by the side . There can be so much informal learning taking place.

I want to share the words of David Neils , founder of the mentoring organization


One morning, when David was six years old, he walked over to Mr. Clawson's garage to see what he was building. Mr. Clawson was always inventing something. That day, he was working on a contraption to clean up oil spills in the ocean. David was impressed. Mr. Clawson showed David how his device worked, talking to him as an equal. He then asked David to critique his design and offer suggestions for improvement. This genius was asking a six year old for improvements on an invention that would clean up oil spills! That simple gift of encouragement from Mr. Clawson changed David's life forever. David realized that his own thoughts about the world had value. He was on cloud nine for days and felt he could pursue anything and be successful.

So the next time we are with kids , not only our own kids , talk to them as equals and ask them – Well, what do you think ? They are then more likely to ' hear ' what we say – it is great when parents feel being heard and their words count and it is not just mom and dad at it again.


Sunday, August 29, 2010

Talking does not help?!!!

Most parenting books tell us that ' Talking does not help " , and I agree with them but my reasons are rather different. The books describe parenting as war between parents and kids , a power struggle , kids testing limits and boundaries , where one side wins and the other loses. In this war – a united front is so important. Talking does not help because will manipulate you , play one parent against the other , get you angry , and then get you to give in. So the advice is – look them straight in the face , ignore what they are saying and repeat your instructions in an assertive way. All you say 1,2,3 magic !!! and you have got compliance – if not you impose a consequence. Now the books avoid telling you about the power struggles involved in trying to impose the consequence.

Talking does not help if parents do the talking. Talking helps when it is the kids who are doing the talking and we the listening directing the conversation with dialog questions. We can help them reflect on the impact of their behavior on others , take their perspectives, identify concerns and goals and participate in collaborative problem solving.

Before we start the Plan B = collaborative problem solving process we need to enter the child's world and connect with him and engage in conversation and dialog about something he is doing or interested in or even sharing some general chatting about yourself , we need to try and see the world from the eyes of the child , as a person who does have legitimate concerns and needs.

The art of conversation is in the listening , and being a good listener depends on knowing how the ask dialog questions. Asking questions is the basis of all conversation , social interactions, learning and thinking , we ask people questions , we ask ourselves questions and act on our perceptions.

Children will talk to their parents when they are older if their parents talked to them when they were small. Consulting with kids , asking them questions etc gives them a voice , lets them know that their opinions count. This is what respect is all about , giving them a voice. A leading spiritual guide said ' what kids need from their parents more than love is respect .

We can love our kids , being dedicated to their welfare and sacrifice for their welfare but if we do not know them , we don't know how they feel , what they think , what they like , who are their friends , their fears , hopes etc we are loving a virtual child , a child who will grow up living a parent's life without any expectations and goals of his own.

Talk less, ask more.

Telling is better than yelling, and explaining is better than just telling, but sometimes eliciting (the child's feelings, ideas, and preferences) is even better than explaining.  - Alfie Kohn

There is an old Chinese proverb

Tell me, I forget.

Teach me, I remember

Involve me, I understand.

Myrna Shure has many books that teach the skill of dialog questions essential for problem solving





Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Natural Consequences - Self Determined Theory, CPS and Unconditional Parenting -UP

The mantra of CPS- Collaborative and Pro-active solutions that uses the collaborative  problem solving process  is that ' Children do well if they can' , they would prefer to do well and be adaptive so the problem is not a motivational one , but involves lagging skills and unmet concerns. Natural consequences don't teach lagging skills and remediate any other underlying issues that trigger problems.

SDT – Self Determined Theory  posits that when kids needs for autonomy, competence and relationship are met , kids become more self determined and intrinsically motivated.

Natural consequences are a form of control by ' inaction' ,  don't teach skills and undermine the relationship with the parent or other care giver - the message the child comes away with is -  you did not seem to care enough about her to lift and finger to help prevent the mishap.

SDT – Self Determined Theory and research teaches that the more we use extrinsic motivators such as rewards, punishments and consequences the less likely it is that children will internalize the 'lesson' we want to teach . We know that even when children are "successfully" reinforced or consequenced into compliance, they will likely feel no commitment to what they are doing, no deep understanding of the act and its rationale, no sense of themselves as the kind of people who would want to act this way in the future. They have been led to concentrate on the consequences of their actions to themselves, and someone with this frame of reference bears little resemblance to the kind of person we dream of seeing each of our students or children become.

What about the impact of natural consequences ?

It would seem that because parents are not ' consequencing ' their kids , kids would more readily internalize the message that a natural consequence teaches .

'The thing about natural consequences is that they are not imposed, they are the natural outcomes of a situation. If I miss a bus I will probably wait for the next one to come along or consider other options such as taking a taxi. I accept these as the natural consequences of my having missed the bus. I do not give up on my journey. Neither am I likely to hear a voice saying "Thou hast missed thy bus therefore thou must await another". In normal life nobody out there "consequences" me; the consequences arise out of my inner sense of responsibility and my inner quality world, what I want ... and what I still want even if I have missed the bus.' - Brian Lennon

This rather different to the discipline strategies known as " ' natural consequences ' , which invites parents to discipline by inaction – that is refusing to help. If a child is late for dinner , we're supposed to refuse to heat up dinner for the child let her go hungry . If she leaves her raincoat at school, we're supposed to let her get wet the following day. This is said to teach her to be more punctual , or less forgetful , or whatever.' Alfie Kohn then reminds us

It’s Not What We Teach; It’s What They Learn


'But the more powerful lesson that she is likely to take away is that we could have helped – but didn't. When you stand by and let bad things happen, your child experiences the twin disappointments that something went wrong and you did not seem to care enough about her to lift and finger to help prevent the mishap. The natural consequences approach is really a form of punishment - punishment lite- and can be more humiliating and make a child feel worse when accompanied by ' I told you so' , ' It serves you right ' or I hope you have learned your lesson' " – Alfie Kohn - Unconditional Parenting

Consequences , natural and logical maybe be ineffective at successfully ' reinforcing kids' or getting compliance because kids don't have the skills to process the information , use foresight and hindsight to reflect on the possible natural consequences of their actions.

Suffering consequences does not teach lacking skills. It does the opposite – undermines self esteem and teaches kids to lie and avoid dealing with the issues.

When we use consequences , and even natural ones , we give children the message that we cannot communicate with them and if they act inappropriately they will suffer consequences . A more positive message is to teach children , that we all can make mistakes and we are there to help them do better and come up with a better plan. Just as we can make mistakes , we can fix them.

' Mistakes are our friends ' is a message kids should be taught both for academic and socio-moral learning. Mistakes are windows of opportunity for learning and finding solutions for problems. When we welcome mistakes , we support the child's autonomy to reflect on problems in the context of his concerns, goals and expectations.

When people or children make mistakes , what behavior should we be modeling. If a friend spills a drink , do we let her clean up alone or do we offer to help , why should it be different when a child spills his drink ?

When kids suffer the unfortunate outcomes and natural consequences of their actions , a supportive and empathic approach from parents will help them internalize not only the impact of their behaviors and come up with a better plan , but also help them learn to be caring people who will be willing to help others who need help .


Monday, August 23, 2010

Mythinkkids forum

I am hoping to post some blog enteries reflecting my thinking on questions parents have asked on the Thinkkids - Collaborative Problem solving parenting forum . Recent questions include problems with kids not talking, getting my son involved in something , siblings, aspergers



Saturday, August 21, 2010

(Im) Proving Competence

In a recent blog post teacher Joe Bower talks about a new research finding that kids who not only focused on ' proving ' their competence but on' improving their competence 'did better at school.


Competence is one of the 3 needs - autonomy = directing one's life from one's inner core , relatedness –in the context of good relationships , and competence that a person needs

to be intrinsically motivated , self determined and experience life at the highest level of reflection, and endorsement - Self Determined theory

From the blog we see that there are 2 ways of experiencing ' competence' - Proving or improving competence. When a student is improving competence, competence is a process , his learning is a process . When a student is focused on proving competence , the focus is on achievement , on grades and award - objects , something external , so the self becomes an object.

There is a lot of confusion between achievement and excellence. Achievement is about 'proving ' your competence , being competitive while excellence is experiencing competence , often collaborating and learning from each other. Schools focus on achievement which is often to the detriment of student learning especially when kids are younger. ' When teachers are told to improve performance, they talk more, they judge more and they control more' and this message is passed on to kids.

The truth is that students can actually 'prove' their competence to others in a way that 'improves' competence. Instead of testing and giving students grades , teachers can use a different kind of assessment.

Joe Bower says ' There is no substitute for what a teacher can see with their own eyes when observing and interacting with their students while they are learning .'

Instead of tests students can share their learning with teachers, fellow students and their parents. They can make presentations , share projects , 'construct modern knowledge' and create portfolios of their learning that they can share in student led parent-teacher meetings . Students get the opportunity to share and teach what they learn. One learns the most when one teaches , talks about and shares one's learning. The interaction leads to more learning , the process does not stop. When we focus on traditional ways of proving learning , not only does the process stops , but kids forget everything they have learned except that one got an A for that subject. Proving competence ends up as undermining competence.

There are many of us who are very appreciative of Joe's creativity and leadership in assessing students in ways that improves their competence and helping teachers put into practice the ideas of Alfie Kohn , Deborah Meier and others.

See Joe's blog on ideas on ' Abolishing grades ' so kids focus more on improving competence and enjoying learning on their way to become lifelong learners.


Monday, August 16, 2010

Developmental delays - Behaviorism SDT and CPS

I have a very strong bias against behaviorism as my learning is driven by the writings of Alfie Kohn UP= unconditional parenting and Ross Greene – CPS. I also have meager knowledge of behaviorism
Daniel suggested where the child is too low functioning , the most efficient way to improve the child is perhaps through behaviorism.

We could make use of behaviorism in cases where the child's self is not developed to a point that the child is able to self-regulate '.

SDT is not only a ' motivational ' theory , it is also a ' learning and development ' theory . When kids autonomy and relatedness are supported , we facilitate competence , development , growth and creativity and learning. SDT is in fact shares constructivist principles and imho does a much better job in promoting learning of lacking skills than behaviorism.

The CPS - collaborative problem solving approach is a non behaviorist approach for parents , teachers and other care givers dealing with challenging kids. It conforms with SDT principles by supporting kids autonomy by focusing first on their concerns and encouraging them to be the ' genius' in coming up with solutions. The CPS process promotes many of the lacking cognitive skills – competence . Because the process is collaborative and the child also takes perspectives and addresses the concerns of others we have ' relatedness'.

Daniel - I am not quite sure what you mean by behaviorism.

I understand the claim that kids emotional and cognitive states may be chaotic and need some external structure to deal with the world. This means providing rules with rewards and consequences , levels of points, token economies etc which provide structure and reinforce behaviors.

Now motivational strategies don't teach skills. They rest on the premise that children do well if they want to and we must make them want to .

The PBIS -Positive behavior intervention system - a behaviorist approach acknowledges that kids challenges may be due to lacking skills and do provide skills training in a very top down manner .

Now it is possible to provide structure without rewards and punishments and one can teach skills not in a top-down manner , but in a collaborative way and putting the missing skills into the context of the child's concerns and unsolved problems.

CPS trains skills mostly indirectly using Plan B - collaborative problem solving. The approach is very constructivist , that kids learn when they make meaning and construct knowledge . Unlike PBIS , kids are not empty pails who are filled with knowledge and drilled to learn skills.

We do take into account the developmental age of the child , but that does not mean we can be respectful to toddlers , try to see the world through their eyes , and support their autonomy with our questions. For the developmentally challenged child , the parent acts as a ' surrogate frontal lobe ' taking the child through the thinking process. Not only does the child learn skills but there are also changes taking place in the brain – neuro-plasticity . Dr Greene says that kids at 3 years of age have sufficient vocabulary to participate in problem solving.

We don't need to compensate the child's developmental delay of the ' self' and his ability to self regulate with rewards and punishments , we can promote development by working with the child

Rewards and punishments at best can make a kid look good and unfortunately can trigger the inappropriate behaviors that the extrinsic motivation is trying to deal with. SDT imho does make a place for extrinsic motivations where they are self determined or the kid feels that they help him to achieve certain goals.

Behaviorism has impressive results with ABA , training animals to do tricks etc but my gut feeling it is the same process , the kids feelings, concerns , opinions don't really count. We can teach animals to jump and do pretty tricks but remove the scaffolding, the controls they revert back to the old behaviors.

http://www.lostatschool.org/answers/index.htm check the answers on FBAs and PBIS

Friday, August 13, 2010

CPS videos/podcat


Here are some links to videos on the Collaborative Problem solving process by Dr Ross Greene of Lives in the balance CPS site and Dr Ablon of the Thinkkids.org site

     Podcast - Dr Gurr interviews Dr Greene





http://thinkkids.org/mythinkkids/messages.aspx?TopicID=60    see link to video - Oregon CPS project

http://www.ofsn.org/Resources/CollaborativeProblemSolvingCorner/tabid/227/Default.aspx   see the left side of the page  Dr Ablon - You tube


Avoid saying the word ' NO'

The advice that parents regularly hear is to say No a couple of times during the day , so the kid learns that they can't get everything that they want and they learn to accept the No word. What follows is kids either go ballistic , explode or implode accepting that their parents don't consider that they have legitimate concerns or feelings. When we say NO we trigger the cortisol hormone which puts us and the child in the ' fight – flight mode.' There is the assumption that parenting is about win-lose scenarios , kids resisting parental control and parents trying to get kids to do what they want them to do. If he really want our kids to ' hear us ' , hear our concerns and experience learning when they interact with us , we need to let them go through the thinking process and make meaning of what is happening , we need to get them talking and reflecting, exploring situations and the concerns of all.

Saying No is essentially only one solution to a concern . Because the solution only addresses the parents concern we are using Plan A. Traditionally kids have never had their concerns heard and when they have been heard it is more of a Plan B in a guise of Plan A. Empathizing with a kid and validating concerns is something parents do just to make compliance easier for kids to swallow , it is called ' Perfunctory empathy – very much part of the Love and Logic approach. Kids need reassurance when we use collaborative problem solving Plan B that we are not trying to force a solution .

I like the phrase - ' I am not saying No '

Of course this does not mean I am saying yes , it means ' I just want to hear your concerns , can you tell me more ?' Our purpose is to get a conversation going with the child mainly speaking and we listening.

We need to gather information about the child's concerns , and take a step back from the solution he has presented.

It is very important not to rush this stage. The child has to feel that he is being heard and understood.

We can also use phrases – I am not saying ' you have to do homework or go to sleep ' etc

Parenting is similar to soft selling , like a dance. When we step back our dance partner steps forward , when we are no longer forcing an issue , the kid no longer resists. When we show how our product will meet our kids needs , they will sell it to themselves.

CPS is not easy , in fact it is hard work , but dealing with the aftermath of the NO word , working on the back-end is much harder and less productive that working on the front end.

Alfie Kohn recommends in his book ' Unconditional Parenting ' 13 principles of parenting . They include Don’t stick your no’s in unnecessarily, try to say yes and don’t be rigid.

Try to talk things through and help your child connect with his true inner core so that the mutually satisfying solution is one that he feels is his own, meets his needs and an expression of who he is.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

ADHD , Motivation and Behavior modification

When it comes to the treatment of ADHD , behaviorism is very much alive. Most parenting books recommend token economy systems for ADHD kids , recommending rewards rather than punishments - honey catches more flies than vinegar.

On the otherhand , Ross Greene - Collaborative Problem solving sees challenging behavior as a learning disability , a developmental delay in the areas of frustration tolerance , flexibility and adaptability when demands for these skills outstrip the skills these kids have. These lacking skills are trained by using the collaborative problem solving process rather than rewards or punishments . There is research showing that rewards and punishments actually trigger the inappropiate behaviors the extrinsic motivation is trying to deal with.

The theory behind behavior modification was presented by Russel Barkley - see the link below 40 pgs imho page 20 onwards relevant - explaining ADHD as a deficit in self control and inhibition. If I understand him correctly the ability to inhibit response enables the 4 executive functions ,- nonverbal working memory , verbal working memory= privatization of speech, privatization of emotion which is the source of intrinsic motivation , and playing with ideas-problem solving. ADHD kids lack the ability to privatize emotion , the source of intrinsic emotion and need to be compensated by extrinsic motivation. He says cognitive therapy does not work because it assumes the presence of verbal working memory=privatization of speech. On page 28 onwards he deals with behavior modification and motivation.

Because ADHD kids  lack the capacity for intrinsic motivation , we need to create an environment which compensates with extrinsic motivation - rewards and consequences. Barkley says that Medication helps with executive functions and hyperactivity and allows us to reduce extrinsic motivation. The drug use for ADHD have minimal impact on executive test performance according to Seidman's 2006 review.
He does however mention that behavior modification only compensates and does not generalize.

S.D.T theory and research shows that extrinsic motivation undermines interest and intrinsic motivation. So while rewards may compensate in the moment , looking a little long term, the value of rewards decreases and have a negative impact.

From the Self Determined theory  site ' Some of the most surprising insights to emerge from SDT research call into question the traditional use of incentives. For example, behavioral research has shown that extrinsic rewards, like money or grades, actually undermine a person's interest in voluntarily engaging in a task. In short, rewards can backfire.

Kou Murayama from the University of Munich, Germany explored the neurobiology underlying this counterintuitive finding at the conference. In a recent study, Murayama and his colleagues scanned the brains of participants before and after completing a timed task. One group of participants was promised a reward. A second group performed the task with no incentive, although afterward they were surprised with compensation.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the study showed that entirely different areas of the brain are activated by the same task depending on whether a person anticipates a payoff or not. When focused on a reward, the brain switches off those areas associated with voluntary or self-initiated activities. '

Imho there maybe a developmental delay , but the lack of intrinsic motivation has more to do about the boring and uneganging nature of school and the parenting strategies of reward and punishments. Education and Parenting that supports children's autonomy - ( not independence but interdependence ) helps them be more self determined more intrinsically motivated. SDT says that 3 needs  - autonomy , competence , relatendness  facilitate intrinsic motivation and being determined . Cps  parenting supports the child's autonomy by addressing his concerns and inviting him to problem solve and be part of the solution , promotes competence by addressing lacking cognitive skills , and encourages ' relatedness ' through the collaborative nature of the process.

http://www.greatschools.org/pdfs/2200_7-barktran.pdf?date=4-12-05   Barkley article

http://www.help4adhd.org/faq.cfm?fid=40&varLang=en        Executive functions - Brown and Barkley


Executive Functions - EF and CPS

The collaborative problem solving approach addresses the many cognitive skills that a child may be lacking. When we solve problems in a collaborative way we promote executive functions, language processing skills, emotion regulation skills , social skills and cognitive flexibility.

Executive function Skills – from Thinkkids.org care givers handout

These are the thinking skills, associated with the frontal lobe of the brain. They enable one to do the clear, organized, reflective thinking in the midst of frustration that is crucial for solving problems in an adaptive (non-impulsive) manner. The executive skills include:

• shifting cognitive set (the ability to shift gears, to make transitions in activities and thinking smoothly)

• organization and planning, and working memory (allow you to use hindsight and forethought to solve problems in a systematic fashion)

• separation of affect (the ability to put feelings on the shelf to get on with the clear thinking needed to solve problems)

When lacking, these children will have difficulty shifting from one activity to another. They will have difficulty anticipating problems. In the face of frustration, they will have difficulty staying calm enough to think clearly and will have difficulty sorting through different solutions to organize a coherent plan of action.

Here are 2 check lists – the ALSUP Assessed Lacking Skills and unsolved problems from Dr Greene's site ' CPS – lives in the balance and a similar list from the TSI – thinking skills inventory from thinkkids.org – Dr Ablon

Dr Greene feels that categorizing the skills into executive functions etc gets in the way of focusing on the real problem , the concerns of the child and the underlying skill. It becomes a label , a diagnoses that get's in the way of helping kids. Too often , clinicians will try to promote executive functions independently of problems and the child's concerns. It is much better to work with the check list of the lacking skills together with unsolved problems. Dr Ablon reintroduced the categories at the request of parents in order to help them remember the various cognitive lacking skills. Separation of affect – putting emotions on the shelf – is now categorized by Dr Ablon under emotion regulation skills.

The various lacking cognitive skills may be found in nearly all childhood disorders and that is especially true for executive functions. So it is a bit silly to say if a kid has executive functions deficits he must have ADHD. This proves the CPS approach claim that diagnoses don't tell much and actually get into the way of a clear understanding of the underlying challenges of the child and the compatibility and responsiveness of the child's care givers.



From : Treating Explosive children - Executive functions

Handling transitions, shifting from one mindset or task to another (shifting

cognitive set).

Sticking with tasks requiring sustained attention (perseverance)

Doing things in a logical sequence or prescribed order (organization)

Reflecting on multiple thoughts or ideas simultaneously (working memory)

Maintaining focus for goal-directed activities (sustained attention / concentration)

Ignoring non-relevant stimuli (distractibility)

Thinking before responding, considering the likely outcomes or consequences of

actions, forecasting (reflective not impulsive thinking)

Considering a range of solutions to a problem

We can  train kids to be  more organized, planful, intentional ( non-impulsive ) thinking when we use Plan B – taking perspectives and concerns, defining the problem , using hindsight to reflect on past solutions and their outcomes, foresight to predict likely outcomes of potential solutions , anticipating problems and proactively solving them .

Responding to changes in routines or demands to change cognitive sets from one set of rules and expectations and making transitions is a skill which relies also on the capacity to anticipate and predict the near future and thereby not being taken by surprise.

Pan B of CPS promotes executive functions as we work through unsolved problems. We can collaborate – not top down skills instruction – with the child to see how together we can formulate goals , make the day more predictable and organized –

see below resources – Sara Ward and Ann Epstein = intentional choice and planning.

We can help kids make lists and schedules. This is also great because it gives them a sense of time and a wider time horizon. In the moment , a kid may feel that their needs are not being met , for eg not going to the swimming pool or a play date. When they check the week's schedule they are able to perceive the bigger picture.

Supporting a kid's autonomy is very important for their development. Autonomy does not mean independence but rather interdependence. It means being in touch with your inner core values and making decisions which express your true self and not just a reaction against parents.

When a kid had made a list or schedule , we can ask ' what about brushing teeth , do you see any problems ' etc . We don't have to give orders or instructions to do things , because it is the list the kid made is creating his agenda.

In today's modern world with plenty of technology with which kids love to mediate the world we can make use of ' Assistive Technology - check my post on ' AT'

Here are some Resources

here are some links - Sara Ward's pdf


Sara Ward has some ' amazing presentions ' here




http://jamesdauntchandler.tripod.com/  - Chandler Papers on childhood disorders


http://journal.naeyc.org/btj/200309/Planning&Reflection.pdf   - Ann Epstein

http://schoolnet.gov.mt/thinkingskills/thinkingtools.htm   - Edward de Bono














Sunday, August 8, 2010

Consequences - Social or economic norms

There was an interesting study done on a day care who were struggling with the issue of late pickups. In order to deal with the situation the day care started charging ' fines' for late pickups. This could be explained as a ' logical consequence' or even a natural outcome or consequence for failing to pickup your kid on time. Rather than stopping the late pickups , the number of parents arriving late to retrieve their children skyrocketed. The day care then stopped fining the parents ,but the situation remained the same. So what is going on here ?

Parents who picked their kids up late were originally subjected to a minor guilt trip , and a 'social norm '. The right and moral thing to do was to come on time , the day care givers also wanted to go home and your kid was waiting for you as well. By introducing the fines , the day care transformed the social norm and the decision making process into an economic one. They had put a price on the time of the workers at the center. So parents ,instead of asking how their coming late impacted on the kids and caregivers , parents are now asking themselves what will it cost me , or what's in it for me. The social norms have been replaced by economic norms so the decision is now about expedience and doing a cost-benefit analysis. Once the transition had been made the day care could not return to the ' social contract' even when they were no longer any fines. The transformation was irreversible.

When kids screw up and there is now a problem to be solved , we need to choose a response using either a ' social or 'economic' norms. If we tell the kid, there is a logical consequence of playing ball and breaking a window –you need to replace the broken window and pay up ,we are using economic norms. The consequence may be logical , but it is top down. If you get caught then you will be get a consequence to pay for the window. As far as the future is concerned , the consequence is there as some kind of deterrent.

CPS – collaborative problem solving first tries to deal with the future and come up with solutions to the problem. It is important to give the kid a vision for the future and make sure that relationship and trust are intact . Then we deal with the past , making amends, and fixing the damage. When we inform the kid that he needs to replace the window we use an economic norm , but when we just ask the kid what next or how he can make amends, we encourage a ' social norm ' , reflecting on the consequences of one's actions on others and then engaging in the moral act of in restitution.

Alfie Kohn -'In an illuminating passage from her recent book Learning to Trust (2003), Marilyn Watson explained that a teacher can make it clear to students that certain actions are unacceptable while still providing “a very deep kind of reassurance – the reassurance that she still care[s] about them and [is] not going to punish or desert them, even [if they do] something very bad.” This posture allows “their best motives to surface,” thus giving “space and support for them to reflect and to autonomously engage in the moral act of restitution” – that is, to figure out how to make things right after doing something wrong. “If we want our students to trust that we care for them,” she concludes, “then we need to display our affection without demanding that they behave or perform in certain ways in return. It’s not that we don’t want and expect certain behaviors; we do. But our concern or affection does not depend on it.”

An education based on punishment prompts the query, "What am I supposed to do, and what will happen to me if I don't do it?" An education based on rewards leads the child to ask, "What am I supposed to do, and what will I get for doing it?" When values have been internalized by the child, the question becomes "What kind of person do I want to be?" '

We should be asking ourselves if how we respond to kids helps them focus on social norms or transforms the issue into an economic one .


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Education - what children need - Part 3

I presented the argument that any discussion on the effectiveness of an education system needs to be in the context of what it means to be educated and what children need. To quote Case Hurley - 'Even if we looked at what we are doing, we would not know what to think because we have not defined what it means to be educated in a useful way'

So what do you think ?

Deborah Meier on Charles Murray –

Yes , she despises his work , it is very controversial, some call it scientific racism.

Imagine if the same research done on data from test scores was done here in Israel and it came to the conclusion that IQ was related to genes and people of color were of inferior quality. Sometimes a 'truth' like this is in a reality the biggest lie of them all. Check what Sir Ken Robinson says about IQ and kids.

Sir Ken Robinson expresses concern for the current day misuse of IQ tests in his book The Element:

Ironically, Alfred Binet, one of the creators of the IQ test, intended the test to serve precisely the opposite function. In fact, he originally designed it exclusively to identify children with special needs so they could get appropriate forms of schooling. He never intended it to identify degrees of intelligence or mental 'worth'. In fact, Binet noted that the scale he created 'does not permit the measure of intelligence, because intellectual qualities are not superposable, and therefore cannot be measured as linear surfaces are measured.

It is sadly ironic that Binet intended on his IQ test to be a tool used to find ways to properly include children with the opportunity to gain a better education; however, the IQ test, for the most part, has been used as a gatekeeper to exclude children from further education.

Before I read your answer to my question – is Ken Robinson only for gifted kids , I learned that your field is ' gifted children ' so the thought crossed my mind why would a leading educator like Deborah Meier be so against Charles Murray while you use his work to support your thesis. Deborah Meier spent a life time supporting kids and building schools for the underprivileged and believed in these kids potential and understood what they need. Your field is gifted children , the superior kids. Maybe because of this you identify with Murray's explanation why kid's are unsuccessful at school, it is because of their IQs. Now Deborah Meier is a romanticist as far as education goes and Charles Murray is not. Both agree that schools are failing our children, but for different reasons.

You list several lies about schools. The reason that pouring money into schools , improving the standard of teachers, integration of students, working on student self esteem does not improve achievement is not because of the innate qualities and intelligences of children but rather the whole educational philosophy which focuses on ' achievement and grades' , on teaching – all the talk now about merit pay based on test scores- rather on kids' learning . Learning for the vast majority of kids is of no interest and has no intrinsic value, suffer an alienation from a learning environment which is not relevant and focuses on ' drill 'n skill ?. So if the only benefit of schooling is a baby sitter for parents and a piece of paper at the end of the day , it is pretty obvious that getting a  graduation cerificate from high school does not contribute anything to being successful in life. By the way , this situation – where kids are alienated from the learning and the schools competitive arrangement put kids against each other , we are sure to have serious discipline problems.

So what do you think ?

You write – have a certain education for the half of the kids who are below average –something like vocational training , something for the average and of something special for gifted kids. So all that changes is that we have education for these kids and a different education for those kids. What about the education model – teacher focused transmitting information and the focus on achievement and test scores or kids actively participating in their learning and the focus on their learning ?

Charles Murray has made interesting observations and stimulated imho 2 interesting blogs by Deborah Meier + comments , and your interesting article.

To quote Deborah Meier

'So, thank you Charles Murray. It suggests that we can learn even from people whose work we often despise.'

And to quote a commenter -

'I admire the way you treat disagreements as gifts and a way to a better understanding.'

So what do all kids need?

'What all kids need is an engaging, stimulating curriculum on one hand and engaged, stimulating adults on the other.' We have to decide what skills and virtues ( for eg Deborah Meier's the 5 habits of the mind or Case Hurley's 6 virtues of the educated man ) they need to be independent and contributing individuals to society in the 21st century and then choose a curriculum that will promote these skills ,their curiosity and interest to discover. It is not what we teach but how they learn.

There is an interesting interview by writer Dan Pink the author of the WHOLE NEW MIND and Drive on the education required to give kids 21st centaury skills. He is asked in the interview – is this type of education for the brighter or more talented kids. He answered No. Having these skills is very much of what being ' HUMAN' is about.

So we should rethink ' education ' – more about kids learning than teaching and achievement and we will have more of a chance in helping all kids reach potentials and engage in serious intellectual thinking.



Education - what children need - Part 2

I read more slowly Deborah Meier's 2 blogs on Charles Murray. My new title is ' if you read Charles Murray , be sure to read Deborah Meier's and Case Hurley's comments. One needs a definition of what it means to be educated to make meaning and reflect on Murray.




'Along came an article by Charles Murray of "The Bell Curve" infamy. He proclaims that the failure of current reforms is proof that he’s right—serious intellectual work is not appropriate for most kids, and certainly not most poor kids of color. It’s genetic! So let’s get off the kick about all kids going to college, he argues. To my surprise, his solution rang a bell—as it did for you, Diane. It set us both thinking!' - D Meier

Deborah Meier is focused , not on getting all kids into college based on their test scores and how much they know , but focusing on how they think and how much they care, helping them become interdependent and contributing citizens.

On some level it would appear that Charles Murray and Deborah Meier on the same page.

'We both know that on the biggest question—of human potential—Murray is dead wrong. It takes only one example to prove that point. It is no longer a matter of hope or faith for me, but experience. Although one example doesn’t demonstrate how it can be done on a larger scale.' – D Meier

The question is what meaning do we make of Murray's research and other tests scores data. In the past the NCLB act – No child left behind act was passed and this focused on a ' skills 'n drill type of education. Today the focus is on high stakes standardized testing , teaching to test and a very narrow curriculum. Vocational training alone in no way provides the type of education Deborah Meier promotes. Without a definition of what it means to be educated we don't know what to think about the situation.

Case Hurley author of the book the six virtues of the educated man explains this point well.

'Even if we looked at what we are doing, we would not know what to think because we have not defined what it means to be educated in a useful way. (The usefulness of a definition of "educated" is important -- I got that from Alfie Kohn.)

Without a definition of what it means to be educated, Murray and Hess can use the "higher test score" definition as evidence of public education's failures, and nobody has recourse because nobody has a useful, rich, alternative definition of what it means to be a public school graduate. We are leaving the rich definitions to the private schools, which plays right into the hands of those who want to give up on public education.

So I completely disagree with the second commenter -- all kids DO need the same thing. The six virtue definition of the educated person says they all need understanding, imagination, strong character, courage, humility and generosity. Only when we define "educated" in terms of virtues, instead of knowledge and skills, will we be able to confront those who want to give up on public education. Only then will we know how to assess what we are trying to do, and only then will we be able to say exactly what all kids need -- two intellectual virtues, two character virtues, and two spiritual virtues.

BTW -- these virtues have nothing to do with Bill Bennett's ideas, character education, or the sentiments published on greeting cards. They always have been and always will be the virtues of the educated person. (I am saying it again.) www.sixvirtues.com '