Update: Praise at South Dartmoor


I read with interest the articles in the news on Monday regarding praise in schools and the thinking of the government’s behaviour ‘tsar’ Tom Bennett. Headlined ‘Schools behaviour chief wants to tear up gold stars’, the Sunday Times reported that Tom Bennett has warned that rewarding children with stickers and gold stars could be counter-productive.


Bennett is quoted by the paper: 

“I don’t use sticker charts because I prefer to teach children that learning is intrinsically valuable, not valuable because of extrinsic gain. Rewards like this should be used cautiously; otherwise children learn that good behaviour always leads to a reward. What happens when the rewards run out or no longer satisfy?”


The article goes on to outline research in America that has expressed doubt over the value of gold star charts on behaviour, suggesting any impact is only temporary, and quoting “parenting expert” Alfie Kohn as suggesting it is “bribery.”


Bennett goes on to say:

“They’re best used for younger children, for short periods of time in order to maximise incentivisation, and can be very time-consuming… If teachers find this system is strangling their teaching, then it should be jettisoned.”


The report goes on to speculate that in Bennett’s upcoming report on training teachers to maintain discipline, he is expected to suggest that applying rules consistently, with sanctions for breaking them, is the preferred approach.


Now, none of this is news at South Dartmoor. Praise is important and it is important to give the right praise. Further research by Carole Dweck supports the above findings and we have been moving in this direction at college for several years. Here are some interesting you tube clips of the findings:


We use our praise in genuine ways at South Dartmoor– and we use it a lot, especially for acknowledging hard work and progress made. Having lived in an incentivisation culture for so long, it might be hard to recognise real praise for what it is, so below is a pdf that can be downloaded with the methods of praise at South Dartmoor. This will be shared in tutor time with our students and has already been discussed in student voice sessions. Please discuss these approaches at home – it could prove to be an interesting debate.


Ralph Wickenden

Assistant Principal, Curriculum