Consider the book Nurture Shock where the concept of “Raise children’s self-esteem by praising them constantly” is debunked. According to Carol Dweck’s study at Columbia University praise may not be the panacea at all because it made students less risk taking and fearful of committing mistakes. This is a learning-reaction to that

1. First, I learnt that what experts used to say as panacea for students to succeed is now a hoax. If in the 1970s and 1980s, children’s self-esteem were raised by praising them constantly, today calls for a new yardstick. Research evidence of more than 200 studies suggests that more praise merely resulted to bloated egos. Second, I find Dweck’s finding unsurprising, such that, kids who exert consistent efforts outsmart the ‘smart’ or the innately intelligent ones. Weren’t they really smart after all? And third, I learnt that the author does not mean do not praise kids at all, but praise moderately and appropriately. Excessive praise, according to Standfor scholars, backfires into students becoming less persistent in tasks, more eye-checking with the teacher, and using more inflected speech.

2. I do not understand clearly yet why is there a sudden shift of perspective about praise. Could this be a matter of what Thomas Kuhn called the validity of a thesis or scientific conjectures is established by its irrefutability? Could this stem from the intergenerational categorisation: baby boomers, generation X, Y, and Z, i.e., each is characterised by unique traits and must be dealt with a unique approach? I do not understand, yet, the context where too much praise can produce students who avoid risks and lack autonomy.

3. I used to think that praise could boost one’s confidence, that the praise “I believe in you” is the antidote to reticent and laidback children, and that it is all right to create a culture of high expectations for children vis-a-vis stuffing them with praises as some sort of scaffold. But then I realised that praising children excessively may bloat one’s ego too much; that “I believe in you” phrases can be used sparingly to extract its maximizing effect; and that putting students into high pressure environment at an early stage could rob them off early of their childhood. There is such things as ‘level-appropriate’ and ‘age-appropriate’ teaching-learning.

4. I do not see clearly how the research of psychologist Carol Dweck from Columbia University and the article “The Inverse Power of Praise” published by Po Bronson  and Ashley Marryman could impact directly the state of Filipino parents in children? Is the concept of withholding praise applicable to a society and culture, like ours? Or must there be a different approach? Typically, a Filipino’s reaction towards praise is a ‘hindi naman’ or a ‘medyo’ lang.

5. A good study would probably be an experimental one, where one group will be given moderate levels of praise, while the other will not be given anything at all. This is to prove the hypothesis, “Too much praise can be bad.” Another one would probably be a study focused on the the effects of praise to academically inclined students or the grade conscious (GC). Semi-structured interview or focused group discussion can be conducted before them to find out if praise have made them fearful of committing mistake, less risk-taking, used inflected speech (answers have intonation of questions) too often, very competitive, and resort to cheating, if needed. That could be aptly titled, “The Making of a Grade Conscious and How Teachers Play as the Culprit: What Excessive Praises Can Do?”

6. I learnt from this article that contextualising praise is very important, but taking the study’s implication as a god is a form of neocolonialism. Their context is different from ours. New York is different from Manila; Manila’s is slightly different from Palawan. The amount of praise to give may still be relative to the context. The collective space where New Yorker children live may be enough to boost their confidence, compared to children here, who because of poverty, may not have that confidence in the first place.

I learnt also that this may not be a question of praise at all, but a question of grading in the context of Philippine schools. Here, the need for praise stems not to measure learning and achievement but to increase a grade in order for a child to pass. To say that a child gets 75 or 95 makes no difference if the child is motivated to get that grade more than to learn a concept or  a skill. What motivates that praise? we should be keen with our intention, often we miss out on learning because the grade is a god-panacaea. Teach to grade or Teach to learn?

If we look into grades as motivation of giving praise, we see that grades have values because of their necessity as a driver for students to strive inside the classroom. Unfortunately, even if tons of studies suggest its demeaning and dehumanising effect to the child, its parting the-red-sea tendency to create social division in the class: the brainy and the imbecile, schools have not significantly reformed itself. Even the K+12 has numerical value still, when the letter grade could be use to measure achievement not in a whole set skill but specific skills a child may need to focus on at a particular moment of his learning and development.


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