Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Relationship Development Intervention - RDI and Motivation

Here is my critique on a blog giving 21 simple ideas as how to improve student motivation – how to motivate students. This list includes ideas that foster intrinsic motivation- IM and extrinsic motivators – EM like praise, rewards, and positive competition. The first problem is that the author lumps extrinsic and intrinsic motivation together which implies that 2 motivations – intrinsic and extrinsic are better than one, better than intrinsic motivation alone.

The reason behind this is that the purpose and   goals of these teachers are to get students to work harder, put in more effort in attaining measurable goals and success. The focus is on student achievement and the means are to use both intrinsic and extrinsic motivators. The reality is and this is well researched that extrinsic motivators and intrinsic motivators work in different directions. Ems undermines IM and interest in the subject and task and also the quality of work is affected in a negative way.  Ems focuses on extrinsic performance goals which undermine intrinsic goals such as Mastery and Competence. Mastery and Competence are not achieved by focusing on test scores and learning for the test, but an intrinsic desire to become more engaged in ones' passions and interests and master them so that the student can share their learning and teach others. Performance goals feed extrinsic needs for status, fame, approval and to be better than others. The learning is much more superficial and does not meet the intrinsic needs of students. Ems are very powerful.  A recent study of cadets at the West Point academy showed that cadets with High IM and High EM did much worse in all categories than those with high IM and low EM. Teachers who  focus on IM help kids to experience success or failure as information and focus on what they doing, on the ' process' of learning and not on how well they are doing-' achievement'. They purpose is to help kids be long life learners engaged in their passions and interests and in this context the best and real learning takes place.

Understanding the above distinction between IM and EM is important for parents and caregivers advocating RDI – Relationship Development Interventions for challenging kids. The question often asked is why  shouldn't I  combine approaches - use both IM and EM, or in other words use combine RDI - a working with approach, with ABA – a ' doing to ' approach.?

The correct answer is that it depends on the child. In truth a combination is problematic because RDI is about process – guided participation, relationship and dynamic skills. Using extrinsic motivators   ABA is about achievement, static skills and compliance. Relationship is a goal and a skill to be learned.  Behaviorists see relationship as an extrinsic motivator. If you have a good relationship with your kid, he is more likely to comply with your requests and in the words of an ADHD expert make your rewards and consequences more effective. Kathy Darrow, a RDI expert described how rewards undermine and interfere with relationship. Her kid took the rewards and went to play with them by himself, running away from ' relationship'. The teacher Joe Bower says – Assessment is not a rubric, it is a conversation. We want kids to learn to self-asses, share their thoughts on their work with the teacher and talk not only about the past, but how his project impacts on future learning. Kids become responsible by making decisions and not by simply following instructions. With ' guided participation' kids learn to identify both the concerns and perspectives of others and themselves, come up with possible solutions and make decisions that are mutually satisfactory.  With ' top-down / doing to ' models of parenting and teachers   talk about kids acting responsibly, but this means being compliant and following instructions.  Their autonomy is not respected or supported, competence goals are substituted for superficial ' performance goals ', intrinsic motivation for extrinsic motivation and the relationship between kid and care giver is top-down and controlling mainly through seduction – rewards and candy. RDI supports the needs for autonomy, competence including the important skill of relationship and the need for relationship and belonging.  Supporting these needs makes a kid self-determined and intrinsically motivated.  

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Rewards are addictive

The problem with rewards is that they are addictive and kids become very dependent on  them. The only reason why kids d or do not do things is to get a reward or avoid punishment. Because kids are so unmotivated we repeatedly need to offer rewards  which again reduces interest in the task. The problem is also that when rewards co-opt intrinsic motivation and preclude intrinsic satisfaction , the extrinsic needs become stronger in themselves. Thus , people develop stronger extrinsic needs as  substitutes for more basic , unsatisfied needs…. They end up behaving as if they were addicted to extrinsic rewards. The claim that we need to use rewards  because a task is uninteresting or kids are unmotivated is just fueling the situation and the last thing we should be doing is giving rewards because they undermine interest. Promising a reward to someone who is unmotivated or demotivated is like offering salt water to someone who is thirsty, it's not the solution it's the problem.  Rewards , do motivate. Rewards motivate kids to get more rewards. 

The reasons why Rewards Fail

In his book Punished by RewardsAlfie Kohn  explains  why rewards fail.

The  are  2 major reasons why rewards fail.

A When anything is presented as a prerequisite for something else -  do this task and you can get that – the task comes to be seen as less desirable

B Rewards are usually experienced as controlling and we tend to recoil from situations where our autonomy is diminished even if we wanted the 'goody'.

here are links to problems caused by rewards taken from AK's book , PBR , an idea from Dan Ariely on social and econmic norms and from my spiritual world an idea on spiritual development and rewards 

Rewards reduce interest in tasks

Rewards are Addictive

Rewards interfere with Moral and Spiritual development and Learning

Rewards and Achievement   - Rewards undermine the quality of work

Rewards Punish

Rewards rupture relationships

Rewards ignore Reasons

Rewards reduce interest in tasks

 When some task is presented as prerequisite for something else- that is, a means towards some other end- the task comes to be seen as less desirable. It also conveys the message to the kid, that if teachers have to bribe him to do this, it must be something that he wouldn't want to do, and/ or the activity itself is not worth doing for its own sake. The only reason he is doing it is for the reward.

Kids who were invited to play with another child so that they could get access to his toys or were offered cookies for playing with the child, were less interested in playing with the other child on future occasions.

In one representative study, young children were introduced to an unfamiliar beverage called kefir. Some were just asked to drink it; others were praised Those children who received either verbal or tangible rewards consumed more of the beverage than other children, as one might predict. But a week later these children found it significantly less appealing than they did before, whereas children who were offered no rewards liked it just as much as, if not more than, they had earlier.
There is a story of an elderly man who was harassed and insulted by a crowd of 10 year olds as they passed his house on their way home from school. One afternoon after listening to their insults – how stupid, bald and ugly he was , he came up with a plan. He announced to the kids that if they came back tomorrow he would pay them a dollar each for their efforts. Amazed and excited they arrived even earlier and began throwing insults with much fervor. The old man , true to his word paid everyone his dollar. He then announced – do the same tomorrow and  you will get 25 cents for your trouble. The kids thought that it was still worth their while and came back the following day to taunt him .At the first catcall, he walked over with his quarters paid off his hecklers. From now on, he announced I can only give you a penny for doing this. The kids looked  at each other in disbelief. ' A penny – forget it ' and they never came back.

Two groups of kids were asked to evaluate and give their opinions about a collection of puzzles after playing with them for half an hour. One group was paid by the company for their time. When the half an hour was up , all but one of the kids from the reward group stopped playing with the puzzles . Kids from the non-reward group had to be pulled away from the puzzles. Rewards got in the way of the kids developing any interest and intrinsic reward in doing the puzzles.

Rewards and Achievement.

Rewards are very powerful in the short-term in getting people to behave in the way, you want them to act. People may actually feel more focused, but the focus is typically more  narrow than when no rewards are involved. This helps only in doing manual jobs where little thinking is involved. However rewards change in a negative manner the way we engage in a given behavior. We do exactly what is necessary to get the reward and reach the desired goal and no more. So we are less likely to notice or remember things that are not immediately relevant to what we are doing. Kids were given different colored cards and had to memorize all the words. The kids were unexpectedly asked to recall the color of the card that corresponds to each word. Kids who were promised a prize had more difficulty in remembering as rewards undermine this 'incidental learning '. In another experiment ,one group of people  were  asked  to do a task , and another group were promised a reward for doing the same task  well. The group that was not promised a reward did much better. Also people who were promised bigger sums of money did worse than those who were promised small sums of money. The explanation is that problem solving and non-manual tasks need more exploratory and creative  thinking and  so need a wider focus.A salary is not a reward but ' compensation' for work put in. And still if employers want to promote creativity and excellence that must pay well and then do their best to take their employees minds off money.  
  Rewards narrow our focus. Creativity is stifled because people need to feel self-directed and autonomous and people  experience  rewards as controlling. The objective is to succeed in obtaining the reward with as little effort as possible. So people will choose easier tasks avoid risk taking and  challenging ones and spend the least amount of time as possible. Rewards are problematic even when used with tasks that are less interesting than others. Not only do they reduce interest in the task itself but also in strategies  for reconfiguring a dull task and brightening it up. 

Rewards Punish

Rewards are used to elicit behaviors which would not naturally occur. The message is Do this and you'll get that, which is not much different – Do this and this is what will happen to you. Rewards punish because they are controlling .Even if the kid wants the rewards but they experience it as controlling, the experience assumes a punitive quality. The carrot becomes the stick when kids do not get rewards that they were hoping for. And when everything a kid gets is either a reward or a privilege when he does not behave he is punished by losing his privilege or reward.

Rewards rupture relationships.

They focus on individualism; create competition and conflict between kids where complaints of unequal treatment and playing favorites are common. It interferes with efforts to promote collaboration, cooperative learning and a sense of community which improves the quality of learning.

Rewards also interfere with a genuine and trusting relationship with a teacher where a kid feels safe to be open, expose his vulnerability, admit mistakes and ask for help when problems develop. It is the judgmental nature of rewards and praise that encourages kids to try and impress and curry favor with the person handing out the rewards. Rewards are a tool for ' doing to ' kids, control and manipulation through seduction, rather than ' working with ' kids in an unconditional way. Kids feel valued and accepted only if they behave as they are told and do well in school.

Rewards ignore reasons.

The traditional approach to problems with behavior and learning is to make the kid 'wanna behave and put more effort into learning by giving rewards and incentives. Rewards are appealing because they are simple to use and don't require any attention to the reasons why the trouble developed in the first place.  Dr Ross Greene, the originator of the CPS collaborative problem solving approach says kids are already motivated, they would rather do well, be flexible and adaptive than are failures. We need to ask not how to motivate them, but what's getting in their way. The research shows that rewards caused more stress and anxiety and caused the very problems they were supposed to treat. Instead we need to address the underlying problems, the lagging skills and unmet emotional needs of the kid etc...

Rewards interfere with moral and spiritual development and learning

Rewards interfere with moral and spiritual development, commitment to values and a love of learning.

When a teacher reminds a class of the ' worth ' of an assignment towards a grade – instead of 'worth in terms of its meaning ' or a parent asks a child what he ' got' on a paper – rather than what he got from the act of writing it , kids are taught they go to school to get grades and not to become long-life learners
When discipline is achieved by using rewards and consequences kids are not taught to reflect on how their behavior impacts on others and the community but ask what will I get or what will be done to me if I behave in a certain way. Also rewards are used in character education and promoting religious values.
If our goal is to teach them , that the reward of a good deed is the deed itself why give rewards ? Rewards might change behavior in the short-term, but this is without any change or an emotional commitment to the underlying value behind the behavior. 

.  A child promised a treat for learning or acting responsibly has been given every reason to stop doing so when there is no longer a reward to be gained. Children whose parents make frequent use of rewards tend to be less generous than their peers. . A school tried to encourage kids to return lost articles or money found in school or on the playground by rewarding them. All of a sudden , kids were finding so many coins on the playground. So we see how rewards promote immoral behavior.

Dan Ariely explains that when we use rewards we change social norms – pro-social reasons for behaving in a certain way and doing good deeds into economic norms. Not only is the reward presented to kids as the  desired object , but kids learn to convert social and spiritual norms into economic terms. We should be educating children to convert money and goods into spiritual deeds. We can use ' goodies' not as incentives but to give learning and pro-social activities an association of joy and happiness.

We should be helping kids to think in the following way.
A man who was about to go overseas for while approached his neighbor's  10 year old son. He asked him to look after his dog, take him for walks etc while he was away on holiday. 
He asked the kid  -   How much ? The kid -  I am willing to pay  $15

Instead of rewards, grades and competition, we can create an environment which focuses on making learning intrinsically valuable in the context of a caring family or community of learners by adopting the 4 Cs of intrinsic motivation – Community- Cooperative learning, Choice- autonomy ,Content- engaging curriculum and Competence. Here the reward for a good deed is the deed itself and how it contributes to the community. The reward for cooperative - learning is how it gives us more understanding, richness and meaning to our lives and those of our peers.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Parenting approaches – What questions should we be asking?

I always ask the following questions when reviewing a particular ' parenting approach '.

 Is it a ' working with ' approach with children focusing on relationship and with problems solved in a collaborative way or a 'doing to' approach focusing enhancing parenting authority and control using behavior modification techniques and extrinsic motivation.

 I also ask whether the child's needs for autonomy, competence and relatedness are met with the particular approach.

 The starting point of each approach may be different.  Collaborative Problem solving originated out of a need to help challenging kids where traditional parenting and behavior modification techniques were failing them because their problems were lagging skills and not motivation. The CPS mantra is children do well if they can and not children do well if they want to. Kids would prefer to be successful, adaptable and flexible. While CPS does not use extrinsic motivation, intrinsic motivation of the child is being supported because the needs of autonomy, competence and relatedness are being met.? Other working with approaches like Alfie Kohn's Unconditional Parenting start out with an ' attachment –relationship ' approach to parenting and focus on relationship and the academic-socio-moral growth of the child. CPS is very much the HOW of the 'working with 'parenting approaches.

 Parents will obviously benefit from knowledge of various working with approaches as they complement each other.

Collaborative Problem solving - Steven Covey 7 Habits for highly effective People

I always ask the following QUESTIONS ( click)  when reviewing a particular ' parenting approach '. Is it a ' working with approach  that addresses the child's needs for autonomy, competence and relatedness or a 'doing to' approach focusing on  enhancing parental authority and control. Steven Covey's approach is clearly a working with approach that addresses the needs of kids.

How does the CPS approach fit in with Steven Covey's  7 Habits of Highly effective people.?
A habit is the intersection of knowledge – what to do and why with the Skill of how to do it and the Motivation preferably intrinsic to do it.

Habit I  - Be Proactive
Traditional parenting is reactive offering rewards, consequences and punishments as a consequence of a behavior. CPS encourages Parents to be pro-active and solve problems that are predictably and frequently occurring with kids. In the heat of the moment is a bad time for engaging in CPS ,  ' out of the moment at an agreed time and place will ensure better discussion.

Habit 2- Begin with the End in Mind
Parents should have their long term goals for their goals and needs of their kids in mind. In particular CPS has the goal of solving problems in a way that is mutually satisfactory. However, parents must not go into the process with a preconceived ' solution '  and the belief that using Plan B= using CPS is the best way of getting kids to comply with their solution.

Habit 3- Put First Things First
First we make a list of lagging skills in the context of unsolved problems. We can't work on all problems at once , so parents need to prioritize 2-3 problems. The others we will put on the shelf = use Plan C , or the child's plan. Here we also reduce the number of negative interactions between parent and child. We need to  plan as to how to use Plan B with the particular problem.

Habit 4- Think Win/Win
CPS is more than think win/win. We want mutually satisfactory solutions that address the concerns of both the parent and child , not just the solutions they presented.

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood.
The first stage of the CPS process – the empathy stage focuses on gathering information about the child's concerns. We need to forget all our 'theories' about the child's concerns and why the child is behaving in such away. An effective solution will depend on having a clear understanding of the child's concerns and the child is more likely to ' hear' our concerns if he feels understood and  supported.

Habit 6 – Synergize
Synergy occurs when we integrate all the other habits. The highest form of synergy occurs when we apply  the 4 unique human endowments – self awareness ,conscience=our morality, imagination=creativity, and independent will power- , the motive of Win/Win and the skills of empathic communication to the toughest challenges of life. In the CPS process Synergy allows us to move out of our comfort zones and relinquish control , be more open to other solutions and begin to trust the new developing relationship we have with the child.

Habit 7-Sharpen the Saw
Parenting is a very tough and messy. Parents need to nurture themselves and take care of their physical, spiritual, mental and social/emotional needs. Becoming better at CPS takes time , learning , practice and a belief that the approach addresses the needs of your child and the family as a whole,  promotes trust, relationship and bonding. 


Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Talking does not help, I wish I could get him to listen !

I am sure most of you are familiar with these words of desperation. I agree that talking does not help, but because the wrong people are doing the talking and listening. Kids should be doing the talking and reflecting and we the listening, guiding and challenging them with our questions.

 The CPS - Collaborative Problem Solving approach   process promotes relationship and many cognitive skills. But what happens if you try to gather information about his concerns and perspectives and the kid answers – I don't know. Here we need 'Drilling down techniques' to help us get a clear understanding of the kid's concerns. And what happens if the kid tells you to shut up or he does not want to talk about it, and then the CPS process would begin with ' I have noticed that when I want to talk to you about 'homework' you are not keen to talk to me about it- what's up? And if the kid still does not want to talk, we can focus on non-emotive general chatting. Here we can build trust and connection and also introduce the CPS language of concerns, perspective taking, mutually satisfactory solutions, family and individual goals. Kids don't talk because it may be a trust issue, they see the process as another way of parents imposing their will or find it difficult to articulate or even define their concerns.

 Some parents complained to the Barbara Coloroso that their son used to listen to them, but know he is involved in a bad crowd and he now listens to them. She answered – nothing has changed – he used to listen to you, now he is listens to them. When kids do the talking and reflecting they develop their own values. So let's listen to them so that they will talk to us. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

KIPP and character education

I had a recent discussion about KIPP prompted by Barry Swartz's Ted talk 

I  liked his idea of rules replacing moral thinking . He however did not end so well praising KIPP schools which I am sure he is unaware is an eg of 'pedagogy for the poor ' focusing on test prep - drill 'n skill - their character education is a combination of rules and incentives to comply to the rules - more about being compliant than moral character development . He spoke about respect for learning - kids need a love of learning- to become life long learners - you respect the learning of others .

I got the following response

Saying KIPP's character education is just rules & incentives is disingenuous. Here's what they write: 

"During each school day, in every lesson and every interaction, we focus as much on developing character – traits such as zest, grit, self-control, hope, love, gratitude, social intelligence and humor – as we do on academic preparation. "

Are "zest, grit, self-control, hope, love, gratitude, social intelligence and humor" considered "rules" in your book. 

A supportive review of Jay Mathews book defending KIPP

here is an article http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/Bridging-Differences/2013/04/exploring_moral_development_de.html    in KIPP schools.  The article sounds great but when you solve problems using extrinsic motivation rather than allowing kids to autonomously engage in the moral act of restitution , you teach kids to think – what’s in it for me – what will be done to me – what will I get and this trumps all lessons on moral thinking and behavior

 From an interview with Alfie Kohn
Eric Gurna: Well, one of the founders, of KIPP Charter Schools was at this particular conference, and he was describing his school system and he said that his students go to school nine and a half to ten hours per day, then go home with some homework, and then come to school on Saturdays and over the summer too.

Alfie Kohn: He should be ashamed of what that does to children’s lives. This superficial criticism of KIPP schools is “that’s not scalable; you’re not going to be able to do that to enough kids and enough schools to make a difference from a public policy perspective,” so any gains they get are atypical and un-replicable. I wouldn’t send a dog to a KIPP school, the way they treat children. First of all, ask the basic questions about what makes for a great school, the kind you’d want to send your kid to. First, how much say do the kids have about what they’re learning? To what extent are they brought in on the decision-making? “How do we want our class to be?” If we need guidelines at a school level, kids learn how to make good decisions, by making decisions.

Let’s look at KIPP. Even the teachers have limited discretion about what they do. Number two, do they get the kind of great, again, interdisciplinary, team taught, student directed, project based learning, where the point is to understand ideas from the inside out, or is it all about showing better scores on bad tests? Third, when there’s a problem, do you work with kids to try to solve the problem, or do you bribe or threaten them to into mindless obedience? It’s about “work hard, be nice”, and “nice” you get the sense contextually doesn’t mean a compassionate, generous human being, it means “you do what you’re told, you obey authority without questions, or else we publicly humiliate you,” and conversely have a token economy program of the sort that was developed in mental institutions some years ago. The program itself at its core, is anti-child. The fact that they also believe that kids should be subject to it for more hours in the day and the week is unsurprising and more depressing. Are they able to pump up the test scores? I’m willing to stipulate that they can, a lot of people have challenged that, because they also cherry-pick the students and throw out the ones who aren’t going to make them look good. They say they don’t. I’ve read people who have example after example where they do, but let’s assume they don’t. Let’s assume you can turn a school into a factory, which is what this is, where you reward or punish students into doing exactly what they’re told, not questioning authority and becoming thinkers, and you make them stay there long into the night, sacrificing social, moral, emotional, artistic, physical development, all in the service of being socialized to comply with authority and get better at taking test. I am willing to grant that they can raise test scores. If they figured out a way to do this in the usual six hour a day, five day a week thing, I’d still find it horrifying, but the face that they are sucking up a lot of these kid’s childhoods by demanding extra time adds insult to injury.

Put differently, those kids who can‘t handle the ―choice 
to leave their zoned public middle school are driven out of KIPP because either they can‘t uphold the contract, or because they simply decide that 62% more school time, two to three hours of busywork nightly, and the militaristic social climate is just not for them. From  http://www.jceps.com/PDFs/07-2-06.pdf

Character education the KIPP way is great - great slogans and absolute obedience 
Knowledge is power and power is money and I want more of it

Molly Stern – comment from Bridging  differences
Thank you for pressing the issue on discipline in KIPP schools. I worked in a KIPP school in Brooklyn for almost a year. I resigned midyear in large part because of the discipline issues that you are bringing up in your letter. I also had major concerns about how the administration was treating teachers (the teachers in the school where I worked unionized the year that I was there), though that is another issue. Though I worked primarily in a KIPP school in Crown Heights, part of my job required that I regularly visit the other KIPP schools in New York, particularly KIPP Infinity which is supposed to be a shining example of the KIPP model.

It dismays me that Mr. Witney did not acknowledge the existence of public shaming in KIPP schools. I experienced forms of public humiliation every time I was in a KIPP school. A few examples that I have personally seen in KIPP schools (none of which were particularly extreme in the context of how the schools were run) are students being forced to stand outside of a group and "track the wall" (stare into a corner) for talking out of turn, students being given demerits from their "paychecks" publicly for things like lack of "self control" (there are actually character categories in which kids receive demerits and some teachers call out those categories as they're giving demerits), kids being forced to sit on a bench at the end of the day and face the wall doing nothing (this was called Wall Street), and whole groups of students being punished by being forced to sit silently at lunch or in class for extended periods of time because of the actions of one or two students with statements like, "Well because so-and-so decided to speak out of turn, now we all have to sit here silently." Even when all students were behaving in exactly the way that was expected of them and therefore no shaming tactics were being employed to control students, I was still horrified by the amount of time that students in grades 5 through 8 were forced to be silent and were not allowed to express themselves spontaneously.
I could go on about other things that I found to be oppressive, but I'll leave it at that. I hope that Mr. Witney at least addresses the disciplinary practices that are widely acknowledged and used in KIPP schools as opposed to avoiding the issue by talking about how KIPP schools that are functioning well feel.