Friday, December 24, 2010

Happiness and Children's Learning - SDT and CPS

Here are 2 quotes from Joe Bower's blog , a Freak economist Steven Levitt on incentives for school kids and an example of truly constructivist learning from 8 year old's.

I would like to explore them using Self determination Theory principles.

Few parents have the courage and independence to care more for their children's happiness than for their 'success' - Eric Fromm

I would prefer my students to be little “dumber” but a whole lot happier - William Chamberlain

Eight-year-old children publish bee study in Royal Society journal.

With all the pressure on parents and kids to be successful and accepted in school and on the sports ground , little thought is given whether a child is happy or not. The first thing that parents ask teachers is – how are his test scores , is he behaving himself ? In nearly all meetings they fail to ask - is my child happy in school , does he enjoy learning ?

I make it a habit of mine to ask children in the community what they like about school - the answers I get - recess , friends etc , not learning . Pretty tragic !

The mistake parents make is that success and happiness are dichotomies. In fact I hold - If you are not happy , you will be a whole lot '' dumber''.

According to SDT , people and this includes children are intrinsically happier when they are self determined , can direct their lives and feel that their actions are autonomous. People are happy when they become connected to their inner beings , and this is when true learning takes place . This is the place , a place where kids are happy and want to learn that they can connect to their deeper selves , construct knowledge and make meaning of the world around them and offer insights which are unique to them. When kids are alienated from learning , they are not themselves , not connected to their inner beings.

Steven Levitt takes the other path , the shorter one paved with fool's gold. Paying kids for A's is given them a double reward. Alfie Kohn says the grade , the A is a reward for how well you have done , and the award is rewarding the kid a second time by giving him a reward that is scarce. The kids in the video clip seem very happy . Unfortunately the happiness is not even for the A grades , but for the $$$s and Limo ride.

Now Steven Levitt makes the point that if we want to improve tests scores we should invest in students by giving them incentives rather than in our reforms or teaching. This is freak economics , but not sound economics. Yong Zhao says that Chinese education is producing people with high test scores but low ability. The greatest economic resource a country has is its people. If we invest in people , help them become more self determined, competent, autonomous and interrelated will not only have more successful people , but also people who love learning and love people.

Happiness and success are dependent on one another. Constructivist learning provides an opportunity for the construction and integration of knowledge that becomes part of the child. When kids study for good grades , they forget all they learned as soon as they leave the examination hall. And what reinforces this the grades and award ceremonies.

The 8 year old bee study is evidence of true education which brings with it success and happiness.

There is also social and moral learning. Kids learn when they have opportunities to reflect on pro-social behavior and solve problems using CPS- collaborative problem solving , in a collaborative way finding mutually satisfying solutions. When teachers and parents use consequences to deal with problems , ' doing to ' children certainly does not bring with it happiness. When rewards are used to get children to comply with adult demands , kids are in fact being punished by being given a substitute for real intrinsic rewards and having problem solved taking their concerns into account. CPS promotes real happiness in our children , because it is the way where their problems are being solved and their concerns are being addressed.


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