Duking The Stats 3: Arbitrary Rewards

I was at an INSET recently about behaviour and behaviour policies. It was … interesting.

The trainer banged on enthusiastically about rewarding good behaviour and working. Nothing exactly new there – my own teachers four decades ago would give housepoints for good work and deduct them for bad. I pointed out that the practice was being rendered meaningless by Senior Management gaming the system – I specifically mentioned the instruction to hand out more merits/praises.

She explained that this was perfectly in order and that for the behaviour policy to work properly there had to be three times as many praises as concerns. This stunned us into silence as we digested the implications. The obvious point is that if a class is being particularly badly behaved, you’d be scratching around for good behaviour to reward. Even more bizarrely – if I’ve got this right – in a well behaved class you might have to hand out an unwarrented concern. Which could be for a standard of behaviour or work that would earn a praise in a badly behaved class. What is clear is that handing out praises and concerns in a fixed ratio renders using them to monitor behaviour even more pointless than I thought it was.

Eventually one of my colleagues asked the right question: what evidence is there that handing them out in that ratio improved behaviour.

“Loads of research shows it” apparantly. Reminds me of the approach antivaccination types take when asked for evidence: they tell you there is lots on the internet and it is not hard to find. So you find some and deconstruct it only to be told that they did not mean that evidence.

Whatever ivory tower academics may think, schoolchildren are not stupid. They will be able to see that the earning of praise or the receiving of concerns is arbitrary. If they have no idea from one lesson to the next what behaviour is acceptable and what is not, there will be no incentive for them to change.

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3 Responses to “Duking The Stats 3: Arbitrary Rewards”

  1. dneal78 Says:

    How insulting to think that managing behaviour renders down to a simple formula! The badly-behaved students have more intelligence than that ‘adviser’.
    It is said that ‘those than can’t do, teach’ – sweeping generalisation, to say the least! But this is evidence that ‘those that can’t teach, deliver INSET’ – something I learned to be an absolute truth in 18 years as a teacher.

  2. dneal78 Says:

    1) You put your left shoe on – well done!
    2) You put your right shoe on – well done!
    3) Your shoes match – excellent!
    4) Now I can give you a ‘demerit’ slip – once you’ve finished pummeling that child four years younger than you.

  3. athenebristol Says:

    I’ve always thought that education is increasingly managed by people who don’t know much about either children or teaching. Your experience confirms my opinion.

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