Challenge is More Effective Than Praise

This week I started a Masters level course on Supporting Teacher Learning. I signed up for a couple of reasons: first of all to develop my mentoring skills and my ability to help develop peer learning networks, something I think is more and more important in the post-Donaldson Report age. Secondly, I had been beginning to question the impact things like Twitter and blogging were having on my practice (has all this time spent on social media made me a better teacher?)  and I’m becoming more interested in how teachers improve. Perhaps some fruitful study and discussion of how teachers learn could help me out with some answers.IMG_0217

I’ve generally had an incredibly positive experience with Twitter over the last couple of years. While I wouldn’t now echo the sentiments of some that it is ‘the best CPD I have ever had’ it has without doubt changed my view of Professional Development in both good ways and bad. What it has done, to my great shame, is, at times, inflate my ego way beyond my true abilities. I was recently challenged by a colleague about something I wanted to do in class and immediately adopted a defensive stance. ‘Don’t you know I have two and  a half thousand followers on Twitter? How can I be wrong?’ I definitely didn’t say. He was right of course. I had temporarily lost the ability to accept criticism without taking it personally.

One of the things I hope to work on in the class is that prickly question of challenging the views and beliefs of others without escalating situations into lifelong personal vendettas. In many ways we have been conditioned to deal defensively with criticism, mostly but not always from above, so it is perfectly understandable to be wary of challenge. However, challenging each others beliefs in a constructive manner and working together to achieve better outcomes is at the heart of Professional Development. It’s fine to be praised on Twitter and pleasing when others compliment your blog but challenge is far more effective than praise.

I’m hoping that the next few months of classes will be challenging and will expose me to others who will question my educational stance. I hope I will have heated discussions which will help refine my thoughts. However, what I hope for most is the space to question the impact of a lot of things we do in schools. I waste too much time patting myself on the back over great new ideas and resources but that word ‘impact’ needs to be at the heart of what I do and I need others to help me with that. Twitter and its often self-congratulatory tone isn’t always the answer.

Social media is a great space for great CPD, and Twitter is an amazing way to connect but it can never replace quality collaboration. It is a great place to find and share ideas and wonderful resources but implementing them to achieve their full impact will only occur through collaboration and questioning. Challenging each other in a professional and constructive manner has been the best way for me to improve. Twitter is amazing in allowing me to meet some amazing teachers but nothing beats a group of teachers in a room challenging each other and working together to improve. And I should know. I’ve got two and a half thousand followers. How could I possibly be wrong?

4 thoughts on “Challenge is More Effective Than Praise

  1. Great post Kenny…brutally honest and wonderfully reflective as always. You are going to totally love the Masters…it really is the best professional learning ever, because it challenges you to your very core – that’s what I found anyway.

    Enjoy!

  2. Nicely reflective, Kenny. I’ve had the same thoughts about Twitter, etc., as my participation has dwindled over the past 12 months. What I have got from social networks has decreased in proportion to what I’ve put in. There is a danger in the ego trip of “popularity” of the internet – seeking it through self-promotion is the siren call that has pulled me on to the rocks once or twice. However, I’m a great believer in the power of market forces. People follow because there’s something worth following. As a follower of yours, I’m looking forward to reading about your journey in your masters. Good luck!

  3. Lovely post Kenny. I find the real value from this stuff comes from taking the ideas back into school where the proper discussions can happen. I’ve had some bad ‘debate’ experiences on twitter. Not sure if I’m too thin-skinned but a series of sharp ripostes isn’t a debate.. it gets ugly. The ego thing is spot on….it’s a Wizard of Oz facade.

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