In praise of… praising

Final feast of the year

By Clare Jarmy, Head of Religious Studies and Philosophy and Head of Academic Enrichment and Oxbridge

One of the main perks of being Head of Academic Enrichment is getting to come along to feasts held by Keith and Moony (see good manners, above) for those students who are working really hard, making excellent progress and showing determination in their work.

They’re really positive events, made even the more special by the fact Moony makes the brownies herself (when the dog doesn’t eat them…). Many schools are good at rewarding academic achievement, but Bedales is really good at praising determination, dedication and academic interest.

It seems to me much more valuable to praise the qualities we want, rather than simply good products. Qualities such as determination and resilience are essential for future learning and careers. In fact, many suggest that ‘grit’ – perseverance – is a better predictor for achievement than IQ  – if we can praise good dispositions, and reinforce those, that seems to be an excellent thing. Moreover, praising the effort over the product avoids students getting fixated on replicating work of exactly the same kind – if my work has been praised, I’ll keep doing that. If my qualities have been praised, I’ll keep working in that way.

This feeds into a growth mindset way of talking to students about academic ability – all learners (including oldies like me!) have progress to make and things to improve. We want to praise students who take this challenge whole-heartedly.