Sunday, October 04, 2009

Learning and self-esteem

Stephanie West Allen notes
Parents who praise often may be creating "praise junkies": Self-esteem just might be overrated

This excerpt from the new book NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children is a fascinating read. I am still thinking about it and I don't even have kids. Be sure to read "Chapter One: The Inverse Power of Praise" (NPR). At that same page is an interview of Po Bronson, one of the book's coauthors.
Well, anyone who has listened to me preach on this subject will hardly be surprised that I agree. And I do have kids, and grandkids.

To restate briefly, there is no significant general relationship between self-esteem and achievement.

True, a particular student may underachieve due to low self-esteem. He assumes he will never achieve anything anyway, so he doesn't try. That must be addressed. His problem is one reason why schools need counselling services.

But in the same classroom, there may be girls who are intensely neurotic over a single error and guys who are laughing at the back of the room because they "showed" Old Lady Jones that they didn't have to learn anything she told them to learn. They failed to pay attention or do any homework, so they got an F-. And they are pleased as punch about their "achievement."

No general theory about the relationship between learning and self-esteem can emerge from the current data.