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#2005963 - 12/29/12 10:31 AM Re: What is your merit system? Are we materialistic? [Re: Nannerl Mozart]
keystring Online   content
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The problem is "either or" and also the idea of having any single system in place. Private teaching is interactive between a teacher and a student. Music teaching involves multiple facets of things. As a student grows, needs change. No single thing can apply all the time. At the same time private teaching does not involve a huge institution of hundreds of thousands of students who have to be tagged and followed so "systems" aren't needed.

I have had an overall sense since the start of this thread of things being backward. You don't start with a structure or methodology. You start with teaching goals, and then you see what you need to do to reach those goals. In fact, when writing up a classical lesson plan, it starts with Aims - Objectives. We move toward goals. Even kids do that on their own: become good at playing baseball, learn to hit a ball with a bat, learn how to beat your enemy in a video game. Goals equate motivation. How the heck do you learn anything if you aren't aiming at a goal. The goal shouldn't be secondary but primary. You don't learn to have good timing in order to earn a sticker: you learn to have good timing because you want to have good timing because then your music sounds good and that's a cool feeling.

So say that I want to learn to have good timing in this piece. Maybe I can reward myself with something when I've done what I need to do to get there. Most of us adults do that. If these things are secondary instead of primary, it makes all the difference in the world.

I don't know if I'm able to bring across what I'm seeing.

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#2006042 - 12/29/12 01:57 PM Re: What is your merit system? Are we materialistic? [Re: keystring]
landorrano Online   content
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Originally Posted By: keystring
We move toward goals. Even kids do that on their own: become good at playing baseball, learn to hit a ball with a bat, learn how to beat your enemy in a video game.


I think that it is not difficult to understand what you are saying, Keystring. For my part, and as you know, I have mixed feelings about your point of view.

But I think that kids don't do these things on their own. They become good at playing baseball, at hitting a ball with a bat, because they are with others kids. They are trying to be like some kids, trying to show off to others, competing, trying to please their parents, trying to be like their favorite player.

I am of the opinion that there are many of these sorts of things in the apprentissage of a musical instrument as well. After all, music is not less than baseball a social activity, a form of communication, a link between human beings; and in the case of children a relationship between a child and his parents, his teachers, and other kids.

In the context of individual lessons a child learns to have good timing not because he wants to but because he must. It is the teacher who has the objective in mind; sometimes the child is not yet able to understand the objective. Sometimes a teacher may prefer that a student do what he is asked simply because the teacher asks him to do it, to establish his authority with the student, which in my opinion is perfectly reasonable.

That the music itself becomes the main motivation for a student, well that, I believe, takes many, many years of preparation. As with everything in life.

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#2006146 - 12/29/12 05:36 PM Re: What is your merit system? Are we materialistic? [Re: landorrano]
keystring Online   content
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Originally Posted By: landorrano

I think that it is not difficult to understand what you are saying, Keystring.

Your statements actually show that you have not understood what I am saying.

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#2006275 - 12/29/12 11:04 PM Re: What is your merit system? Are we materialistic? [Re: Nannerl Mozart]
Nannerl Mozart Offline
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KS, I get where you are coming from. I started this thread not because I believed in merit systems or rewards but because I was curious to know WHAT kind of rewards teachers were implementing and whether teachers believed if they were in anyway materialistic (and I cited a contrasting example of a teacher in Argentina who gave hugs and smiles rather than lollies and stickers). Of course, students don't work for stickers - they work for goals as you stated.
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#2006294 - 12/30/12 12:10 AM Re: What is your merit system? Are we materialistic? [Re: Nannerl Mozart]
keystring Online   content
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Oh, I'm getting this for the first time:
Originally Posted By: Nannerl Mozart
I started this thread not because I believed in merit systems or rewards but because I was curious to know WHAT kind of rewards teachers were implementing and whether teachers believed if they were in anyway materialistic (and I cited a contrasting example of a teacher in Argentina who gave hugs and smiles rather than lollies and stickers). Of course, students don't work for stickers - they work for goals as you stated.

because your first post has
Originally Posted By: Nannerl Mozart
He answered very tactfully yet emphatically that he believe in the US and I'm sure he was referring to the rest of the western world, teachers are materialistic. Materialistic in the sense that we give students lollies and stickers rather than hugs and smiles. It's obvious he comes from a country were it is culturally acceptable for male teachers to be hugging students, but it made me think a lot.

I think I missed it, because that isn't what I think being materialistic means. If a person cares only for material possessions and has no spiritual values, that's being materialistic. If a teacher gives hugs because then the students will do well in a way that makes him look good and this earns him lots of money, that is materialistic despite the fact that hugs aren't objects. I missed the main point of your question completely. Well, what if someone is hungry? Are you being materialistic if you give him food, but spiritual if you give nice words but let him stay hungry?

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#2007699 - 01/01/13 09:44 PM Re: What is your merit system? Are we materialistic? [Re: Nannerl Mozart]
catpiano Offline
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Registered: 12/20/12
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Wow, I never put that much thought into this until I read this thread. I give stickers to my young students at the end of every lesson. It's not really meant to be a reward, just something fun for the kids to look forward to at the end of the lesson, because I know for the little ones it can be hard to sit through a lesson. They get a sticker regardless of whether they practiced, played well, etc. I mostly use them for kids under 9. I remember my childhood teacher giving stickers in this fashion too. It's just a little something that's meant to be fun.

I've had a few cases where I did use stickers as a reward. This idea came recommended to me by my friend who is a special education teacher. I had a couple very young students who were really acting out, not doing anything I told them, and just behaving badly. The system was that if they were "good" (and I decided what that meant each lesson), they got to pick out a sticker and put it on an index card. Every 4 stickers I let them take home the card. It just helped the students work towards a goal - if the goal was to take home their card, and that got them to focus during the lesson, then fine by me.

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#2007781 - 01/02/13 01:37 AM What is your merit system? Are we materialistic? [Re: catpiano]
LoPresti Offline
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Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: catpiano
Wow, I never put that much thought into this until I read this thread. . . . . I've had a few cases where I did use stickers as a reward. . . . . The system was that if they were "good" (and I decided what that meant each lesson), they got to pick out a sticker and put it on an index card. Every 4 stickers I let them take home the card. It just helped the students work towards a goal - if the goal was to take home their card, and that got them to focus during the lesson, then fine by me.

CatPiano,
Welcome to the Forums. Most of the teachers on this particular Forum give a great deal of thought to their craft and their art. That is what makes reading and discussing so interesting and genuinely rewarding.

So now that you have a little chance to think about the topic, how would you transition those “behavior problem kids” from their goal of taking home an index card with stickers, to the goal of practicing and playing well? How would you help them move from focusing on getting a sticker, to focusing upon making music during their lessons?

Ed
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In music, everything one does correctly helps everything else.

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#2007805 - 01/02/13 04:50 AM Re: What is your merit system? Are we materialistic? [Re: Nannerl Mozart]
Nannerl Mozart Offline
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http://pianoeducation.org/pnomacch.html - this is where I read the interview - check it out, I did however misinterpret things a little bit. He wasn't saying that stickers were materialistic, but he did call them material things.

I've wondered about my way of working... Lately, I've been trying to find ways to motivate my 9 year old student who has an exam to do. She has been on the same repertoire for a year - there is a lot of work that needs to be done, I feel for her so I've implemented a few projects - to record her playing her pieces and to burn it onto a CD, to design some simple album art, burn a few copies and allow her to sign and distribute to family members. I also arranged for her to play at a concert + afternoon tea at a hospital... I'm trying to spice things up but I know that things are truly boring for her and so I do find myself saying this "if you can get x,y and z done for this week then I'll give you three stickers" ... bribery, poor positive reinforcement, or maybe she's not working towards a goal but working for a sticker ...
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#2007847 - 01/02/13 08:46 AM Re: What is your merit system? Are we materialistic? [Re: LoPresti]
keystring Online   content
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Originally Posted By: LoPresti

So now that you have a little chance to think about the topic, how would you transition those “behavior problem kids” from their goal of taking home an index card with stickers, to the goal of practicing and playing well? How would you help them move from focusing on getting a sticker, to focusing upon making music during their lessons?

The first question I would ask this teacher is, "Is it working?" If it is working, then maybe look more closely into what is working. If that seems fine, then I would not ask "What would you do instead?", but if I want to learn more, "Why is it working?" I will qualify what I am saying. I think there is something more going on than an arbitrary mindless giving out of stickers. As follows:

During my internship, I worked with one fantastic teacher who told me something invaluable. "Don't catch them doing something bad. Catch them doing something good." What is being described is doing exactly that, and this is the principle that we should be looking at rather than what form this recognition is taking. A child in trouble is constantly being told what he is doing wrong, constantly lectured, and maybe being punished for being bad. The very lack of confidence that this creates just pushes the cycle further. If you bring attention to anything the student is doing well, this can have a spin-off.

I taught in a school in a rural district which was a problem area. The parents were in gangs, some families didn't have running water and their kids smelled or were hungry; the gangs in the district were mirrored in the school yard. I used this principle a lot. I didn't use stickers, but if I had, it would have been for the same kinds of things that I recognized verbally. Little Mary, who was constantly misbehaving and was a troubled youngster, picked up her pencil ready to poke her classmate in the back, so I say, "It is wonderful to see Mary getting ready to write out her spelling words." and with eyes on her, Mary sets to work - has been praised - gets better grades because she did the spelling work because she wants more of the praise .... If she starts doing well instead of constantly failing, then she will start having the right motivation for the right reason. But first you have to break her out of that cycle by any means. The problem is not stickers. The problem is the reason for the stickers (or anything else).

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#2007872 - 01/02/13 09:33 AM Re: What is your merit system? Are we materialistic? [Re: keystring]
LoPresti Offline
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Originally Posted By: keystring
. . . Little Mary, who was constantly misbehaving and was a troubled youngster, picked up her pencil ready to poke her classmate in the back, so I say, "It is wonderful to see Mary getting ready to write out her spelling words." and with eyes on her, Mary sets to work - has been praised - gets better grades because she did the spelling work because she wants more of the praise .... If she starts doing well instead of constantly failing, then she will start having the right motivation for the right reason. . .

"Oh, look: Bubba has a knife!" With eyes on Bubba, "Bubba is about to make sandwiches for everyone else on the playground. How very thoughtful!"

How does everyone think THAT will work?

(Are we still talking music here?)
Ed
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#2007882 - 01/02/13 10:01 AM Re: What is your merit system? Are we materialistic? [Re: Nannerl Mozart]
keystring Online   content
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Originally Posted By: Nannerl Mozart
http://pianoeducation.org/pnomacch.html - this is where I read the interview - check it out, I did however misinterpret things a little bit. He wasn't saying that stickers were materialistic, but he did call them material things.

That does make it more complete. There are a number of things here. His own story is that of a self-motivated youngster who started writing out notation at his own initiative when he was still a preschooler. His parents were along for the ride and simply had to provide the resources for that drive he has. The bio that precedes his narrative only talks about his accomplishments as a pianist, unfortunately.

We have a kind of disconnect after that. He talks about the teaching system in his country. There seems to be one set curriculum for all private students. They study the same material in the same order, do the same exams, aim for the same things, regardless of that student's personality, strengths and weaknesses, or personal goals. There is no connection to his own story. Probably because he was so self-motivated, what he was doing naturally simply fit into the system. For example, if the curriculum asks for music theory at some point, he'd be way ahead of the game because he had started that when young. He knows it regardless of what or how things are taught. What about his students, however?

When he compares the "American" system with his, does he have in depth knowledge of both systems, or is he going by general impressions? For one thing, there is no "system" in the US or Canada - nothing organized nationally along one set of rigid lines. A lot of other questions might be asked.

Quote:
Lately, I've been trying to find ways to motivate my 9 year old student who has an exam to do. She has been on the same repertoire for a year - there is a lot of work that needs to be done...

Might this be the problem? The exam, the same repertoire for a year for the sake of the exam? An exam is a pretty empty goal to work toward. What relationship does she have to music? What kinds of things interest her? Could she aim toward the things she is interested in, and make the exam secondary? Might doing other things in music have a spin-off of skills which would indirectly make her do better on her exam pieces? (brainstorming)

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#2007898 - 01/02/13 10:51 AM Re: What is your merit system? Are we materialistic? [Re: Nannerl Mozart]
Minniemay Offline
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Registered: 06/07/09
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Loc: CA
Why would a 9 yr old be motivated to practice material they've had for a year????

This makes me pull out my hair.
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#2008027 - 01/02/13 03:03 PM Re: What is your merit system? Are we materialistic? [Re: Nannerl Mozart]
The Monkeys Offline
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Registered: 01/13/12
Posts: 426
Loc: Vancouver BC
Finally, I read through the thread (roughly)! Do I get a sticker?

Quantity and quality go hand in hand:
Without quantity, there would be no quality.
Just like most of members here don't believe working on 3-4 exam pieces a year would not build a solid foundation. Reading a couple books only, however deep, would not get you very far. There must be a quantity as the base to build up quality.

Without quality, quantity has little meaning.
It is useless to know a little bit of everything and not good at anything. You won't be progressing at the rate you should if you play many pieces a year but not polishing any of them.

It would be an art of find the correct balance, many pieces to explore, keep a student interested and build the foundations. A few pieces to polish to continually raise the bars.

Our learning progress, on any subject, is typically spiral, like climbing a mountain, you don't go from bottom to the top through a direct line. You go around the rocks and deep hills, each step gets you closer to the top.

As of the stickers and hugs or the stars on the wall, I don't see they hurt as long as we can afford them. However we motivate ourselves internally, we all like external recognition, don't we?

I like to give my kids stickers, fake tattoos, occasionally hot wheels and lots of hugs. The genuine smile on their faces make my day.

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#2008079 - 01/02/13 04:33 PM Re: What is your merit system? Are we materialistic? [Re: Nannerl Mozart]
landorrano Online   content
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Originally Posted By: Nannerl Mozart
http://pianoeducation.org/pnomacch.html - this is where I read the interview


An interesting fellow, surely. Several of his remarks that I remark:

"I consider her my musical mother."

"Perhaps the most enjoyable thing about performing and teaching music is to have discovered things about myself - how I function, how I think, how I feel, and, most importantly, what I have to do and change to be a better performer, a better teacher and a better person."

"Music doesn’t make people smart (as claimed by some) but makes people aware of themselves and their possibilities, learning how to focus and how to be disciplined."

"Students are first human beings, then pianists and musicians, so the human aspect is crucial for the development of a great musician."

"I recommend to my students to sing their music. The voice is perhaps the most flexible instrument, the one that allows the most variables in phrasing, and it is within us!"

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#2008089 - 01/02/13 04:50 PM Re: What is your merit system? Are we materialistic? [Re: Nannerl Mozart]
landorrano Online   content
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Originally Posted By: Nannerl Mozart
I know that things are truly boring for her


Is this true? Than you have to surprise the little lass! For example, at her next lesson, don't do anything that you normally do and that she might expect ... and have a blast. It'll do her good, and perhaps more importantly it will do you good, it will get you out of the rut that you are in with her and allow you to get some perspective on the situation. Kids get over things fast and are always ready to move on.

I say "you have to" but of course this is just my opinion.

By the way, this exam is for when? And when you say that you feel for her, do you mean that this is all over her head?

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#2008741 - 01/03/13 09:17 PM Re: What is your merit system? Are we materialistic? [Re: Nannerl Mozart]
bolt Offline
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Registered: 11/23/09
Posts: 186
Originally Posted By: Nannerl Mozart
I've wondered about my way of working... Lately, I've been trying to find ways to motivate my 9 year old student who has an exam to do. She has been on the same repertoire for a year - there is a lot of work that needs to be done...[snip]...I know that things are truly boring for her


Sorry to add on after you already received some comments on this, but I also noticed this as I read through the thread. That situation happened to me as a child. I was the one who wanted the piano lessons, originally. But at some point it turned into working on the same repertoire for a year and I grew to really hate the lessons and quit the whole thing. Well, there was perhaps a little more to it than that but I do have my doubts about the approach of forcing a child - or even anyone - to work on the same material for so long.

Wouldn't it be better to drop the pieces (not as a failure mind you) and move to some new material, maybe at a slightly easier level? How important is it to pass the next exam this year as opposed to enjoying playing?
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#2008868 - 01/04/13 07:16 AM Re: What is your merit system? Are we materialistic? [Re: Nannerl Mozart]
Nannerl Mozart Offline
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Registered: 07/19/08
Posts: 732
Loc: Australia, Melbourne
Quote:
Might this be the problem? The exam, the same repertoire for a year for the sake of the exam? An exam is a pretty empty goal to work toward. What relationship does she have to music? What kinds of things interest her? Could she aim toward the things she is interested in, and make the exam secondary? Might doing other things in music have a spin-off of skills which would indirectly make her do better on her exam pieces? (brainstorming)


Quote:
Why would a 9 yr old be motivated to practice material they've had for a year????

This makes me pull out my hair.
_________________________


I agree, I don't like the exam system, but here is the situation: The teacher who taught her before she taught me handed her over to me before she stopped teaching. She taught in accordance to what a lot of piano teachers do in Australia - teach 3-4 pieces a year, teach a few scales and get the student to sit for the exam. It's a common way that teachers do it. It's probably why Tim Topham and Elisa Milne have decided to blog about it speaking against this approach - I can't agree with them more.

The exam, for this nine year old is only a month away, even though she's been on these pieces for a year, there is a lot of stuff that we still need to do (learn the extra) and there seems to be a big terrible chunk missing in her technique as well as her musicality. She wants to do the exam so do her parents.

Quote:
Is this true? Than you have to surprise the little lass! For example, at her next lesson, don't do anything that you normally do and that she might expect ... and have a blast. It'll do her good, and perhaps more importantly it will do you good, it will get you out of the rut that you are in with her and allow you to get some perspective on the situation. Kids get over things fast and are always ready to move on.


I set her a spy-message inspired piano adventure task. Basically one of her parents read out a challenge every morning about what she needs to practice, these daily challenges are in sealed envelopes and she can't open them before the day she is meant to do them, only her parents can ... If she fulfills her mission for the day, she can move to the next day (the next day's challenge is in another sealed envelope). This was an idea I gleaned from Philip Johnston's book - The Dynamic Studio. After the whole week, if she does all her tasks then shows them to me (I told her on the lesson - it's a show down) then there is a grand prize. I felt bad about the grand prize thing, but then I though - she worked for it, she earned it after a hard week of challenges. She expressed a lot of enthusiasm for it she really loves it.

I do have lots of fun stuff planned for this girl once the exam is over. I just hope she can stick it out till then - in the mean time she is learning one new piece...
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#2009564 - 01/05/13 05:12 PM Re: What is your merit system? Are we materialistic? [Re: Nannerl Mozart]
Bobpickle Offline

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Registered: 05/24/12
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a somewhat related journal entry by Jane Magrath on how to praise students: http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/clavier/companion_20110910/#/10

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#2010149 - 01/06/13 05:04 PM Re: What is your merit system? Are we materialistic? [Re: Bobpickle]
TimR Offline
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Loc: Virginia, USA
That's an interesting article, and aligns with some of my thinking.

One thing it makes clear is that reinforcement, and specifically praise, does have a powerful effect in shaping behavior. So properly done it can be of great use to a teacher.

But it needs to be soon, genuine, and very specific, and there are possible unintended consequences.

Praise when there hasn't been effort seems likely to me to just produce superstitious learning.

(I did an experiment last week, I had a day off from work and didn't feel like practicing all day. <g> I brought a soccer ball up from the basement and set it on the living room floor. My dog is a bit shy and was reluctant to enter the room, and when she did avoided the soccer ball. I got out a bowl of treats and a clicker, and started rewarding her when her head moved in the direction of the ball. I shaped her behavior from a partial head turn to walking up to the ball she'd previously feared and nosing it for the reward. It took about five minutes. The reward was given only for behaviors that were relevant, and was given within half second of her doing what I wanted (the advantage of marker training.)

Now, if I had not tied the reward to anything specific, but just clicked and treated every 45 seconds or whatever, I still might have taught her something. It is common to find the dog performing something that was accidentally rewarded, like lifting one leg, scratching an ear, etc. Associations get made between behavior and reward that were not intended but just occurred near in time. The psych literature calls this "superstitious learning" and it is VERY effective in humans. And that, I think, is why general praise in an attempt to raise self esteem does not work. But very specific praise can increase the behaviors we want.

Anyone who's done this type of experiment knows another reaction occurred. There was a time when my dog "knew" she could get a treat but did not know exactly what to do for it. This produced a burst of activity. She ran through her repertoire of tricks that earn treats - sit, lie down, spin around, high five, shake hands, etc., frantically. But as the reward continued to be specific only for ball approach behaviors, she got past that and learned the new one. This burst of activity also typically occurs during extinction, when the behavior is no longer being rewarded and is being untrained.)


Edited by TimR (01/06/13 05:05 PM)
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#2010171 - 01/06/13 05:55 PM Re: What is your merit system? Are we materialistic? [Re: Nannerl Mozart]
malkin Offline
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Registered: 04/18/09
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Loc: *sigh* Salt Lake City
What if you contingently presented your dog a sticker?

It could increase the target behavior.
It could decrease the behavior.
It could have no effect on the behavior.

A stimulus (sticker, dog treat, verbal praise, or whatever) is only a reinforcer if it increases the rate, frequency or intensity of the target behavior. It is highly dependent on the individual subject.
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#2010176 - 01/06/13 06:03 PM Re: What is your merit system? Are we materialistic? [Re: Nannerl Mozart]
landorrano Online   content
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Loc: France
Originally Posted By: Nannerl Mozart
I just hope she can stick it out till then


I hope so too ... and that you have a plan ready so that this little lass will quickly forget these dreary last months and rediscover or maybe discover for the first time the joy of studying music.

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#2010235 - 01/06/13 08:40 PM Re: What is your merit system? Are we materialistic? [Re: malkin]
TimR Offline
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Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3200
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: malkin


A stimulus (sticker, dog treat, verbal praise, or whatever) is only a reinforcer if it increases the rate, frequency or intensity of the target behavior. It is highly dependent on the individual subject.


+1!

Exactly. My dog is highly food rewarded; we've known other dogs who couldn't care less. (if she weren't so extremely impulsive we could probably have her pretty well trained. But there's too much terrier in the mix.)

Children are different too, each one has their individual set of reinforcers.

In general though, depending on the age, many children find focused adult attention HIGHLY rewarding. That's one reason they misbehave - nothing gets them attention like misbehavior. When that attention is contingent upon misbehavior, it produces more misbehavior rather than less, even when the adult thinks he is punishing.

Stickers are so delayed. I don't think stickers alone can do enough to maintain behavior even when suited to the child.
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#2010256 - 01/06/13 09:09 PM Re: What is your merit system? Are we materialistic? [Re: Nannerl Mozart]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
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Loc: Canada
Students are not trained pets.

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#2010266 - 01/06/13 09:27 PM Re: What is your merit system? Are we materialistic? [Re: Nannerl Mozart]
Minniemay Offline
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Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
Thank you, Keystring. I was wondering if anyone else was thinking that.
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#2010500 - 01/07/13 09:34 AM Re: What is your merit system? Are we materialistic? [Re: keystring]
TimR Offline
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Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3200
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: keystring
Students are not trained pets.


Well, no.

I meant it the other way around.

Pets can be a "teaching moment."

There are some behavioral principles that apply to all lifeforms, and an occasional review does no harm.

I would observe that some here focus more on the practical, and others on what I call the moralistic aspect.

On a moral basis, clearly children should never be bribed; they should work incredibly hard just for the joy of making music. And to avoid a double standard, teachers should never be paid, but should teach incredibly hard for the joy of THAT calling. <g>

And on a practical basis, neither approach seems to work very well. Go figure.

Than again, how many of us actually have well trained pets?


Edited by TimR (01/07/13 09:36 AM)
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#2010853 - 01/07/13 09:26 PM Re: What is your merit system? Are we materialistic? [Re: keystring]
malkin Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/18/09
Posts: 2542
Loc: *sigh* Salt Lake City
Originally Posted By: keystring
Students are not trained pets.


Exactly.

And if we have no understanding of positive reinforcement in its simplest manifestation, then our application of it to complex subjects (people) performing complex behaviors (like playing the piano) will be completely misguided and ineffective.
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A good student is one who makes the teacher feel like a good teacher.

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#2011052 - 01/08/13 08:21 AM Re: What is your merit system? Are we materialistic? [Re: malkin]
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3200
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: malkin
Originally Posted By: keystring
Students are not trained pets.


Exactly.

And if we have no understanding of positive reinforcement in its simplest manifestation, then our application of it to complex subjects (people) performing complex behaviors (like playing the piano) will be completely misguided and ineffective.


When I was in grad school I had an internship in an elementary school.

Some of the teachers had very effective classroom management, others had great trouble controlling children. The latter blamed the children, of course, but when these passed to the next grade somehow their behavior magically improved.

For both effective and ineffective teachers, the approach was intuitive. Few had an understanding of what reinforcers maintained what behaviors. To an observer some of it was obvious, and even turned out to be teachable. The best teachers were the most eager to implement suggestions, while the worst insisted the problem was in the kids, not themselves.
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#2011181 - 01/08/13 12:54 PM Re: What is your merit system? Are we materialistic? [Re: TimR]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5486
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: TimR
The latter blamed the children, of course, but when these passed to the next grade somehow their behavior magically improved.

Perhaps the kids suddenly matured? Over the course of a year, that's highly feasible.

Blame the kids? That's just 25% of the equation. Teacher, administrator, parent, and student make up the education "team" in the public schools. Like the four legs of a table--any one that comes short will make the table wobble. Missing one leg? You get the picture.

This whole "blame the teacher" argument comes from people who are looking for the simplest solutions.
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#2011186 - 01/08/13 01:04 PM Re: What is your merit system? Are we materialistic? [Re: AZNpiano]
MaggieGirl Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/18/11
Posts: 481
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Originally Posted By: TimR
The latter blamed the children, of course, but when these passed to the next grade somehow their behavior magically improved.

Perhaps the kids suddenly matured? Over the course of a year, that's highly feasible.

Blame the kids? That's just 25% of the equation. Teacher, administrator, parent, and student make up the education "team" in the public schools. Like the four legs of a table--any one that comes short will make the table wobble. Missing one leg? You get the picture.

This whole "blame the teacher" argument comes from people who are looking for the simplest solutions.


I agree. Sadly many kids start out from the gate with a 1,2 or 3 legged table. And secondly, it is rare that an entire class is advanced to the next grade level in the same grouping. Usually they are remixed. Esp when a teacher has a very trying year - is is usually because of the behavior problems of a few and higher needs all around. Spread them out the next year and the new teachers do have an easier time of it.

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#2011190 - 01/08/13 01:15 PM Re: What is your merit system? Are we materialistic? [Re: MaggieGirl]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5486
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: MaggieGirl
I agree. Sadly many kids start out from the gate with a 1,2 or 3 legged table.

And this is why I truly applaud my public school colleagues who go way, way, way over and beyond their call of duty to compensate for:

1) lack of parental supervision or discipline,

2) idiotic administrators, and

3) unruly, undisciplined, "I don't care" kids.

These great teachers are truly overworked and underpaid. I've met many of them. They can work on overdrive and make up for the other 3 missing legs of the table.
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