Focus on results can make children do worse, study finds

Children do better in their exams when their teachers focus on learning, rather than on test results, a detailed research survey published by the Institute of Education, University of London, concludes.

“A focus on learning can enhance performance, whereas a focus on performance alone can depress performance”, writes Chris Watkins, Reader in Education in this summer’s edition of Research Matters. Children who develop a “performance orientation” rather than a “learning orientation” tend to show greater helplessness, use less strategic thinking and be more focused on grade feedback. They are more likely to persevere with strategies that are not working.

Watkins says schools have two challenges:

  1. To recognize that passing tests is not the goal of education, but a by-product of effective learning.
  2. To recognize that even when we want pupils to do their best in tests, pressure and performance orientation will not achieve it.

Read more about this study at: IOE – Focus on results can make children do worse, study finds. (The actual study does not appear to be online, but this description is well worth reading.)

This is a difficult distinction for educators – pushing students to do better on tests has the opposite effect. And yet, we continue to do just that in the face of research (this study and others). It just seems like it’s “obvious” that drilling kids for tests is the way to go, and counter-intuitive to ease up on the test prep in order to do better on tests.

The problem is that research and studies aren’t really convincing those who need to be convinced. Why is this?

Updateit is online in PDF form. Thanks for the find by commenter aschmitz!

Sylvia

2 Replies to “Focus on results can make children do worse, study finds”

  1. We need moral leadership which will share this perspective and research finding.

    We need new educational leaders at state and national levels who have the moral courage to stand up to the fraudulent, destructive educational policies of the NCLB era.

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