Basic Processes Adults Use to Influence Children (page 2)

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 20, 2010

Practicing with Coaching

The next step, after giving direct instruction, is to encourage a child to practice a new skill. It is very helpful to give on-the-spot guidance or coaching as the child practices.

Mr. Claiborne had taught Ryan how to wait for his turn at the computer (he is working on helping Ryan be more observant about approaching activities and other children because Ryan just barges right in). The teacher believes that Ryan will make changes, but is going to do so gradually. Now, he is at the computer with Ryan. He encourages Ryan to go through the steps that he has modeled and taught:

  • First, check the list of names to see who is next.
  • Second, put his name on the list if necessary.
  • Third, find something else to do while he waits for his turn and ask for help if he needs it.

The teacher coaches Ryan through each step. “What’s the first thing to do, Ryan? Right! Look at the list.” He continues this coaching.

Mr. Claiborne believes that this is a much better approach than punishing Ryan for pushing ahead of others on the list to use the computer. It actually teaches something positive.

Giving Feedback

Adults influence children by giving them feedback. Information from adults about how a child has done something or what a child knows is an important source of information about the child’s competence. Feedback is critical to constructing skills and competencies as well as for making changes.  Giving good feedback means that teachers give positive feedback as well as suggestions for change, when appropriate.

Positive, unconditional feedback
This is positive information independent of anything that the child has done; the child does not have to earn the feedback. Examples include “I love you,” or “I like being your teacher” (teacher to class).

Positive, conditional feedback
These are positive comments expressed after a child has done a specific task. For example, “Thank you, Reese, for showing Sam how to feed the gerbils without disturbing them,” or “The fire alarm was very loud but everybody listened so carefully to my instructions.” This is positive, meaningful feedback, not empty flattery, and should help children build a healthy view of their competence.

Feedback that helps children construct more helpful skills or competencies
Adults, with their expert knowledge and skills, can help children construct positive and satisfying interaction skills. For example, Mrs. Vargas, a preschool teacher, said to Jackie, “You look upset. Is that right?” Jackie told her yes and that Ralph would not give him the wagon. Mrs. Vargas had observed Jackie capture the wagon, pushing Ralph in the process. He needed to learn a better way to get what was rightfully his. “I see. Now, everybody is upset. Let’s figure out how to use words to tell Ralph that it’s your turn.” The teacher expanded her feedback to include specific words: “You can say, ‘It’s my turn now, Jackie.’”

Feedback from computers
Interesting new research shows that children can get feedback from computers just as they can from teachers or parents. Bracken and Lombard’s study (2004) examined the effect of praise from a computer on young children’s learning. They found that children do have social responses to computer-generated praise and that their responses can lead to increases in recall and recognition in young children.

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