I write to you as a concerned citizen who appreciates the importance that education plays in the development of a more sustainable, healthy and prosperous society. In recent years I have taken a great deal of time researching this topic and have come across some information that I feel is of the upmost importance for everyone involved in education and to which all should be made aware. Here is a brief summary of some the findings of my research regarding some of our current educational approaches:
The use of grades, praise and punishment
Grades, praise and punishment have been shown in multiple studies, across a variety of cultures, to do three things consistently with regards to motivation and creative ability. The summary of which is:
- Decrease long term intrinsic motivation in the subject or task in question. This is likely due to there being no reason for a student to take an interest in the subject once the grade or reward on offer has been obtained.
- Limit the ability for the student to think outside the box, take risks or to think creatively regarding potential solutions to a given problem. This is because to take risks in assignments or assessments is to compromise the chance of getting a higher grade for the task in question.
- To apply the bare minimum of effort to acquire the grade on offer. This ties into point one, as once again when the grade on offer has been obtained there is little point to continue to actively pursue the topic beyond this point.
Although there is a correlation between a positive effect on learning and homework, it is only found in the higher age ranges (fifteen and above) and this correlation is a weak one at that. The way homework is currently set encroaches on family time, damages long term intrinsic motivation towards learning and reinforces the need to be motivated to please others, rather than being allowed to take the time to look into what the student genuinely finds interesting. Were homework geared towards a student’s interest then it becomes far less of a detriment toward the development of an intrinsic love of learning.
These methods are a major staple of our current educational approach and no easy task to turn around. However, if the findings of these various, vast, and multiple studies contradict our current methods of approach and better alternatives exist, then it is our responsibility as parents and teachers to adopt what works to help the next generation to adopt a lifelong positive attitude towards learning.
To look at the evidence mentioned in this letter in the detail required I would highly recommend taking a look at the work of Alfie Kohn, Ken Robinson and John Taylor Gatto as a starting point.
I am sure that you, like me, have the best interests of the future generations in mind and hope that you find the information contained within this letter useful in aiding you to do just this. If you wish to contact me please do feel free to do so by using the address, email or telephone number at the top of this letter.
Thank you very much for your time.