“Self Reflection, Feedback & Praise in Education – Why Do We Do The Mocks?”

self-reflectionFrom the very beginning, when I started my own 4 education projects we allotted time every couple of weeks to “Self Reflection.”  This meant that even students as young as 5 were encouraged to think about how far they had come.  Very simple questions like, “what can you do now that you couldn’t before?  What is easier?  What is still difficult?”

If you don’t check in with yourself you don’t know what you have achieved.  Never mind comprehend what is left to do.  A sense of achievement is vital.  Otherwise, why do we do all this work?  What is the point of learning if you don’t see who you are?

Also, this gave my teachers an opportunity to offer feedback on what was happening.  Though, to be honest, feedback is something that is integrated into every task and exercise due to the comments we ask children, parents and teachers for.  It’s second nature to mentor by encouragement and leave people with a very clear idea of where they stand at all times.

Feedback is vital in education because anyone with a sensing personality needs the reassurance that they are doing it right.  Kinesthetic people look for feedback all day long all around them – even in their physical worlds – never mind emotionally.  Anyone with a high feeling element to their personality takes criticism very badly and rarely finds it constructive.

There are a variety of personalities that thrive on praise – they stop functioning and lose all motivation when it is lacking.

In 1925 Dr. Elizabeth Hurlock showed in a study that students who were praised and encouraged got vastly different results from those who were not or were criticized.

By the end of the 5th day the results showed:

Those given praise – 71% improvement

Those criticized – 19% improvement

Those ignored – 5% improvement

This is huge and has been known since 1925.  So, why are we still giving students such a hard time at such critical stages in the exam process?  What I have to explain to parents on repeat loop at this time of year is that your daughter or son is not the same person they were in February of this year as they will be in June – 4 months is a lifetime in the development of a person between the ages of 15 and 18.  So much will have happened.  They will have changed their appearance, their friends, their music tastes and so on.  They have been learning so much information and working so hard to understand how to study, how to answer questions and most of all they have learned from their mistakes in The Mocks!  So, why would you think they were the person they were 4 months ago and would they get the same result now?

I have written about The Mocks before, the top tips for why we do them and how we get through.  But this year I’d like to write about something slightly different.  The “Chicken-Liken-syndrome” where students seem to genuinely feel like the sky is falling in on top of them!  The mocks are a test run – you are meant to make mistakes.  That is the whole point of doing them!

For some of The Students at The Homework Club®, Confidence Club®, The Purple Learning Project® and Homeschooling® this happens in a more spectacular fashion.  I myself did very badly in my Mocks as do many students with learning difficulties.  As the Department of Education has not granted who will and will not receive accommodations in their exams, very few, if any schools, allow these students to sit their exams in a similar environment to how they will in June.  We are overwhelmed by the exam hall experience.  I’m conducting research at the moment into why some students are hyper sensitive and how this can helped.  We don’t have a reader and hence we read the questions incorrectly, we take the wrong meaning from the question and we answer a completely different question!

Some students haven’t gotten to grasp the whole course in one “bulk” form – they are struggling to put all the sections together and maybe they haven’t covered their best section yet!  No one tells you how to sit an exam and for some students who really do need to do a visual map of the answer and the question, this is highly discouraged and implied to be a waste of time when it’s not as all.  It’s a vital way of thinking for them.  If you are going to use a laptop, perhaps you didn’t get to do this in The Mocks?  There are so many factors as to why students find exams difficult.

I call this time of the year “crushing season” because I watch the students who we have built up since September lose complete confidence in their abilities.  We have to build them up again from the floor.  I really question at this stage if The Mocks are a good exercise at all?  Surely there must be a better way to have a test run?

The sky really isn’t falling in and there’s loads of time left to fix the mistakes – but it is very hard to show people your mistakes when you are made to feel so bad for making them.  We do The Mocks as a test run to get feedback, encouragement and hopefully some praise for what we are doing well.  To learn from our mistakes.

Many people reading this might find all of these reasons lacking in the current system.  They may find that it is an ultimatum to drop down in a subject.  Even if it is worth whatever risk going for the higher level and getting more points – valuable points you need.  Doing a subject and passing it is of no benefit if you don’t have the level you require for a course or the points at the end of the day.  After all, these are the only reasons we sit exams in the first place – to get the qualifications we need!

Dr. Naoisé O’Reilly,

February 2015.