American psychologist pronounces……………..and I put my head in my hands!

Teachers should not award prizes to star pupils in assembly, an education expert has claimed. Marvin Berkowitz said it caused ‘collateral damage’ because other children can resent the recipients who themselves can feel embarrassed. Teachers should instead praise pupils individually.


Speaking at a conference in Glasgow, Professor Berkowitz said: ‘My elegant advice to you about rewards and recognition is the following: stop it. Replace it with individual affirmation. ‘All I have to do is go up to my pupil, put my hand on her shoulder and say, “I saw what you did. That was so kind. Keep it up. ‘No audience, no one else, walk away – and there’s no collateral damage that we get from the other stuff.’

He said the effects of being singled out for praise could stay with children for years afterwards: ‘Some of those marks are temporary and wash away, some are scars that will throb with pain for the rest of the child’s life.’

Teachers have an ‘awesome power over children’ he added. He also criticised schools that try to influence behaviour by putting up motivational posters with key words, according to a report in the Times Educational Supplement. All of these techniques are not ‘deep and powerful’ and are unlikely to have a long-lasting effect on the children, he said. He added that the use of role models would be a better approach.

Professor Berkowitz is an expert in character education at the University of Missouri-St Louis.


I thought we had enough “interesting”  psychologists in the UK without feeling the need to import them from the good old USofA spouting ideas that make me weep into my porridge. I love his comment “some of those marks are temporary and wash away, some are scars that will throb with pain for the rest of the child’s life“…………just what world has this man been living in? Children learn to cope both with praise as well as criticism, it is part of growing up. Life isn’t all about positive stroking and anyone entering “adulthood” never having seen someone publicly praised (or indeed receive some criticism)  is in for a real shock.

Is it any wonder that America is such a screwed up country with what it seems, half the population in some kind of “therapy.”

I recently came across this: In the 1950s the American Psychological Association (hereafter APA) commissioned a study of the scientific standing of psychology. In 1963 the result was published in six volumes as “Psychology: A Study Of a Science” (Koch, S. (Ed.). (1959-1963). New York: McGraw-Hill). Sigmund Koch, the director of the study, came to these conclusions:

“The truth is that psychological statements which describe human behavior or which report results from tested research can be scientific. However, when there is a move from describing human behavior to explaining it there is also a move from science to opinion.” (Perhaps someone should remind Prof Berkowitz of this!

The one thing I do agree with him on is on the use of “motivation posters”…….just what are they expected to achieve? I have been in many managers offices and seen such posters on their walls, usually to do with motivation or team working. I am sure that any employee who walks into an office and sees a poster such as “there is no I in team” will immediately go back to work thinking I must change my behaviour and the way I work immediately!!!


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One Response to American psychologist pronounces……………..and I put my head in my hands!

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