2014年10月18日 星期六

書評:The Teacher Wars和Building a Better Teacher;南橋: 父母該如何表揚孩子?

Back against the blackboard
American teachers need more money, training, feedback, collaboration, mentoring and observation throughout their careersOct 18th 2014 | From the print edition

The Teacher Wars. By Dana Goldstein.Doubleday; 349 pages; $26.95. Buy fromAmazon.com

Building a Better Teacher. By Elizabeth Green. W.W. Norton; 372 pages; $27.95 and £18.99. Buy

WHAT is to be done about America’s schools? Students are graduating, if they graduate at all, with a poorer grasp of writing, reading and maths than their counterparts in other countries. And the poorest students are often warehoused in the worst schools, ensuring that public education is a poor vehicle for social mobility. Reformers have spent decades reducing class sizes and introducing standardised exams, to little effect. Lately many have taken a new tack—blaming bad teachers and the unions that protect them.

Studies on good teachers have encouraged the weeding out of bad ones. When a California judge recently struck down teacher-tenure, education reformers around the country cheered. For policymakers the solution is now plain: use data (such as exams) to ditch the duds, reward the stars and steer the strongest teachers to the neediest students.

This sounds sensible. But will it have a serious impact on the quality of education in America? Not according to two new books. The real challenge, both authors argue, is not to get rid of the bad teachers, but to attract and keep good ones and improve the middling majority.

America has a poor record of luring ambitious people into teaching, writes Dana Goldstein in “The Teacher Wars”. This problem dates from the early 19th century, when schools were seen as places for moral guidance, and teachers were mostly low-paid, poorly trained women who prioritised faith over academic learning.

Elements of this attitude persists. Unlike countries with more successful school systems, such as Finland and Poland, teaching in America is still dominated by women and lacks prestige. Degree programmes are hardly selective, and teachers earn less than most other university-educated professionals. In North Carolina, for example, a teacher must work 15 years to raise her salary from $30,000 to $40,000.

Studies show that higher teacher pay correlates with better student outcomes. Raising the profession’s salaries and esteem would attract better candidates and make it easier to filter out underachieving applicants. But what about the teachers who are already in classrooms? This is more complicated. Recent efforts at reform, from George Bush’s No Child Left Behind programme to Barack Obama’s Race to the Top, have tried using carrots and sticks to improve teacher performance, without success. Not even the prospect of a $15,000 bonus per teacher in Nashville, Tennessee, yielded better student results.

Why? Because no reward can unlock a skill a teacher does not have. Without serious professional development, merit pay is “a non-starter in terms of raising student achievement”, writes Ms Goldstein. The recent proliferation of assessments has turned teaching into a high-stakes business without offering tools for making improvements. Teachers leaving the profession often complain about limited opportunities to learn and grow in the job.

This is where most American education reform goes wrong. By fixating on the hard data of inputs (incentives) and outputs (student performance), reformers neglect the most essential part: what happens in the middle. Most teachers enter the classroom with minimal practical training and little professional support. Only half the candidates are ever supervised as student teachers in a real classroom. Everyone seems to assume that good teachers naturally know what to do. But this is a myth, writes Elizabeth Green in “Building a Better Teacher”. Teaching is a skill, a trade, not an innate gift.

So how should the teachers be taught? There is no simple answer. Most people know a good teacher when they see one, but assessing what works can be “like trying to describe a dream”, according to a former principal. Yet Ms Green and Ms Goldstein agree on a few basic points: the best training should include regular feedback, collaboration, mentoring and observation throughout one’s career. In Japan, for example, teachers observe the lessons of mentors and dissect them afterwards. Colleagues collaborate on new lesson plans. Unlike the learning-by-rote maths classes typical of America, where teachers demonstrate (and often fumble through) sample problems and then have students solve similar ones on their own, Japanese classes are often devoted to solving a single problem all together, which creates a far livelier atmosphere of inquiry, full of mistakes and opportunities to learn from them.

Both books offer a damning assessment of America’s approach to teachers. These workers are expected almost single-handedly to create new worlds of opportunity for poor children, even as low pay and limited training dooms them to failure. But the authors also offer some good news. At a time when more people teach in America than work at McDonald’s, Walmart and the US Post Office combined—and nearly 400,000 new teachers start at schools each year—it is reassuring to know that teaching well is a skill, and it can be taught.


Juliette Borda
美國著名網絡學堂可汗學院(Khan Academy)的創辦人薩爾曼·可汗(Salman Khan)近日撰文稱:「我永遠不會讚揚我兒子聰明。」他說「我不會讚揚我兒子他已經擅長的東西,而是讚揚他面對難題的時候能夠不屈不撓。我向他強調,當你在掙扎的時候,你的大腦在成長。」他認為不恰當的表揚,表揚兒童的「聰明」,會扼殺兒童的「成長心態」(growth mentality). 
這個說法,和美國表揚泛濫的文化有些相悖。英語中有句俗話:「蜂蜜粘蒼蠅比醋多」(You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar)。網上還有很多海報可下載,比如「表揚孩子的101種方式」, 幫助人學習如何讚揚。家長表揚自己的孩子,多發自本心,出乎本能。照常理,兒童會在鼓勵之中,增強自信心,提高學習效果,或是其他方面的特長,此為「賞識教育」,也是國人欣賞美國教育的一個原因。但是這樣的做法,近年遭到了不少挑戰。「虎媽」蔡美兒(Amy Chua)在《華爾街日報》的一篇文章中描述了這種中西賞識行為的不同。她說在孩子在學校拿了A-,  美國家長會大為誇獎;中國家長會反過來罵孩子,為什麼是A-, 而不是A或者A+?
虎媽為激勵女兒上進不惜惡語相向的做法,在美國受到很多人批評。但是最近幾年,有一些美國的心理學家發現,賞識運用不當,會適得其反,亦即產生中國人所說的「捧殺」。但問題不是簡單的中西二元對立—— 中國人「打是親,罵是愛」,責罵管用;美國人注重賞識。這些研究,把賞識拿到顯微鏡下,讓我們看到到底什麼樣子的賞識管用,什麼不管用。
首先,需要知道,賞識與否,與我們能否認清兒童的現實有關。我們知道,美國學校一般不在班級裡面公布成績,給同學們排名次。可是這不等於你好我好大家好,和稀泥了事。美國的「排名」其實更能刺激神經:比如一些關鍵年級(如四年級)的統考、SAT等重大考試,是將學生和全州同學比,和全國同學比。看兒童的智商或是學習成績,按百分比分別處在什麼統計範圍之內。這種智商測試結果和成績表,會郵寄給學生的父母,幫助父母親準確地認識兒童的長處短處,或做補救的努力,或是針對性開展未來的規劃。學校也會根據學生現實,適當調整教育舉措。在一些私立學校或者好一些的公立學校,智商測驗結果領先的學生,會進入「強化班」(enrichment programs),老師會針對性地提供高端技能的培訓。著名媒體人彭曉芸在四川的《教育家》雜誌撰文《因材施教不要迴避智力差異》,說有必要認可兒童天分的差異。那種沒有客觀依據而認為自己孩子是天才而賞識的做法,則無益於兒童的成長。
認知的負荷在不同人之間,甚至同一個人的不同時間內,都有差別,沒有必要諱言這種差別。學生的個人意願,並不能改變大腦的接受程度。即便到了大學階段,負荷的重要性也一點沒有降低。我所在的艾伯林基督教大學(Abilene Christian University)的心理學教授鮑勃·麥考爾文(Bob McKelvain)最近在一次針對學習策略的講座中分享過他所做的一項統計:一章書大約15000單詞左右。以英語為母語者的250/分鐘速度統計,讀完一章需要一個小時。上五門課,每周每門課閱讀量是兩章的話,則僅僅把書讀完就需要10小時。如果是一個以英語為非母語的人,把書看完,甚至看兩遍三遍還要查單詞,那麼可能二三十個小時才能勉強把書看完(全職工作的時間是40小時),就不要說寫作業了。這就是為什麼美國大學需要看托福成績或GRE成績的一個原因 —— 是看一個人的閱讀能力、學習能力到底怎樣。不然的話,進來容易,過程中會被拖死。一個人的成長,是先天差異和後天努力的結合。沒有必要諱言先天差異,或者說一開始的差異。這種差異總是在某些方面讓兒童收益,也總是在某些方面讓他們受挫。
到底表揚什麼特徵,會直接影響到兒童的發展。目前心理學上公認的做法,是表揚努力,而不表揚聰明。斯坦福大學心理學教授卡羅爾·德懷克(Carol Dweck)在這方面做過不少研究。她發現表揚兒童「聰明」,這些兒童遇到更艱難的問題時,容易放棄。因為這樣的小孩認為過去的成就,都是來自於自己的聰明,而不是努力。他們不想丟掉「聰明」的帽子,不想在人前顯得自己失敗,接下來如果可以選擇,他們會選擇更輕鬆的、更符合自己長處的任務去完成,久而久之,形成一個舒適區不願意走出去。德懷克認為,誇兒童的聰明,會形成「自我毀滅」行為(self-defeating mentality)。這種兒童,越早捅破他們包裹在自己周圍的肥皂泡越好。
相反,如果表揚小孩的努力,讓小孩養成「成長思維」(growth mentality),  小孩則能在困難任務面前不懈努力。人的努力,更容易改變一些,而智商,也可在「成長思維」下獲得一定的進步。換言之,表揚孩子努力,他們會更努力,而智商或可隨之增加。而你僅僅表揚聰明,孩子會把所有問題、成就都歸結為自己智商,這反而會減少他們的能動性,增加他們心理的脆弱。這就是「智商打敗情商」的奇特現象。
荷蘭博士生艾迪·布魯默爾曼(Eddie Brummelman)和俄亥俄州立大學溝通和心理學教授布拉德·布殊曼(Brad Bushman)在一系列研究中發現,對於自信心不足的孩子,言過其實的讚美(inflated praise)事實上使得兒童感覺更為糟糕。在其中一項實驗中,研究者讓孩子們臨摹梵高的畫作《野玫瑰》,然後讓一位「知名畫家」(其實並不存在)鑒定。研究者後來委託知名畫家,分別給出「言過其實的表揚」(inflated praise)、不言過其實的表揚,或是不表揚,然後繼續讓這些兒童選擇新的畫作。這時候接受「言過其實的表揚」的孩子,普遍選擇更簡單、更沒有挑戰性的畫作。對於不自信的孩子而言,言過其實的表揚會讓他們迴避挑戰,比過去更脆弱。沒有哪個父母,不願意自己的孩子自信、大方,可是當你給出不恰當的表揚時,兒童可能反而會覺察出這種不真誠,知道你在哄他們。他們開始迴避艱難任務,而選擇簡單任務,迎合你的說辭。對於某方面不足的孩子,最實在的辦法,是設法提供資源或幫助,讓其長進,長進之後再表揚,而不是事前提供不切實際的表揚,試圖讓其感覺良好一些。
成人也一樣。前幾天,我在績效評估期間,給一個屬下的評價是:「我非常讚賞你的主動精神,你不等着他人安排你做事,你做事主動(self-starter),比如上周,當頭兒給我們布置『翻轉教室』這項培訓任務時,你主動請纓。我覺得你有豐富的媒體製作經驗,也有在中小學積累的課堂教學實踐經驗,非常勝任此工作。」 這位同事幹勁十足,非常圓滿地完成了任務。這種表揚,相當於寫一篇小議論文,得論點論據論證齊全。