Session 59: How can we change the mindset that it is not ‘cool’ to achieve in school?

Hosted by Chris Leach

-Session Title:

How can we change the mindset that it is not ‘cool’ to achieve in school?

Session Summary:

This discussion aimed to deal with a situation that I am sure many of us have faced with children who are afraid to achieve because of how their peers will react and indeed how to deal with those children whole feel it is ok to bully others because of their achievements. Almost straight away the question was asked as to whether this was a discussion about praise or motivation and I responded that it was a bit of both. The discussion then moved on to the question of praise and more importantly how children react to praise.

It became quite clear that children react to praise in different ways - some will love the public praise of an Achievement Assembly whereas others will dread these occasions. The point was made that praise and rewards need to be meaningful - we can over do stickers and certificates - and that the praise and reward that works for one age group can be completely ineffective for another. We also talked about who the praise comes from and how children can react completely to praise coming from outside school through tools such as blogs and Twitter.

After the discussion I then came across this quote which I thought summed up this topic quite well - “We destroy the love of learning in children …by encouraging and compelling them to work for petty and contemptible rewards.” by John Holt.

The discussion then moved on to how to foster this love of learning and motivate children to want to achieve. We also looked at how to make low-ability children not feel threatened by the high achievers. Everyone agreed that every child achieves in some way and that all achievements, academic and non-academic should be praised. We also talked about how, as teachers, we have a responsibility to act as role models to show how much we enjoy learning and how we need to demonstrate our passion for whatever subject we teach. We discussed celebrating geekiness and how a teacher’s enthusiasm for their topic can be a very powerful motivational tool.

Notable Tweets from the session

@chilledteaching: I am going to throw down the gauntlet! Perhaps it is the disenchanted pupils in the middle who need more attention!

@GeekPeter: I think some students will try hard to achieve to please someone they respect, relationships with staff are very important.

@a_p_martin: getting families to value school achievement is crucial this can help create a groundswell in the whole community.

@mattpearson: Do you think that celebrity culture is partly to blame. Most celebs come across as anti-intellectual. Do kids latch on to this?

@DepJo: I think it’s about teaching children to work hard for themselves, not just to gain praise from others.. That inner self-confidence.

@EmathsUK: Kids would engage more if the curriculum was to the world that they will be adults in… it’s hundreds of years behind.

@joanne_rich: Chatting to teenage son & friend - yr 10 - say praise is only bearable in top set lessons not in mixed ability.

@mikeatedji: Why would you want to achieve if you felt you had no stake in the eventual outcome.

@EmTeaches: Role models must be relevant and aspirational to the chn, and able to talk positively about their own time at school.

Tweet of the week:

@LearningSpy: Stop mentioning praise! We don’t want childrenn to learn cos there’s something in it for them! We want them to love learning!!!

Highlighted links:

The taxonomy of the nerd

Nerd Venn Diagram

RSA – Changing education paradigms

ICT display – celebrating geekiness!

Why don’t boys want to be Lady Gaga? (looking at boys lack of role models)

The learning loop

Cybraryman’s motivating students page

Punished by rewards?

Do extrinsic rewards lower intrinsic motivation?

About your host:

Chris Leach is Head of ICT at an independent prep / pre-prep school in Northamptonshire. He has presented at Teachmeet’s and BETT and this was his debut as a #ukedchat host.

Chris’ blog is


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About UKEdChat Editorial 3187 Articles
The Editorial Account of UKEdChat, managed by editor-in-chief Colin Hill, with support from Martin Burrett from the UKEd Magazine. Pedagogy, Resources, Community.

1 Comment

  1. Did I really use 5 exclamation points in a single tweet? This is most unlike me - I’ve always equated multiple exclamation point use as an early sign of madness.

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