Hi, my name is Don Berg.
Welcome to my Nurturing Education Policy video series.
I've been an educator for over 20 years and I want to talk about how education policy affects nurturing in schools.
But, you probably don't want to hear about it because you have other questions on your mind, like...
I figure those issues are on your mind because that list includes public enemies number one and two right now.
The third one may not be on your mind because even most educators may not recognize it as a problem.
But, I propose that all three of these problems are not only interrelated, but that they are all symptoms of a single underlying problem that is rooted in education policy and will only be solved after a different kind of education policy framework is in place.
Since the mastery issue is probably not familiar to you let me tell you about my experience with Mr. Schuster sophomore year of high school math in 1985.
I faithfully jumped through all the hoops Mr. Schuster put in front of me, I scored reasonably well on his tests, and he gave me perfectly acceptable grades.
And you should know I was attending a college prep magnet program and I was in class with the very best students in the Long Beach Unified School District.
We were expected to be engaged and accomplished learners.
But in reality me and a good number of my classmates were accomplished at gaming the system; at being fauxchievers.
Now, flash forward to the beginning of my junior year of math.
When I took the assessment of skills at the beginning of the year I failed so utterly and completely that my new math teacher saw no hope of my catching up and so assigned me independent study working on SAT preparation manuals for the entire semester so I could re-take that test in December.
She told me that she knew I could master the strategies for taking the test because my performance in Mr. Schuster's class proved that I had the ability to go through the motions without mastering the material.
And my performance on the SAT in turn proved that she was correct because my math score improved by 120 points going from 500 to 620 while my English score went up only 50 points from 560 to 610.
She recognized that I was a successful fauxchiever, though she didn't have that term.
I wasn't underachieving and I wasn't overachieving.
It wasn't even run-of-the-mill achievement.
I was fauxchieving; doing enough to look good by the terms set by the system, but not in a way that would get me the learning benefits that are normally expected.
As a fauxcheiver I knew how to do the minimal amount of work to get as much as I wanted from the system.
And I am certainly not unique, Howard Gardner, of Multiple Intelligences fame, pointed out in his 2004 book The Unschooled Mind that a majority of people with advanced degrees in every subject are prone to failing practical tests of the most basic concepts in their fields when the problems are presented to them in ways that are different from how they were normally tested in school.
So, if they don't get the problem presented to them in a format that they expect then they cannot solve the problem.
In other words most masters degrees do not indicate mastery they indicate fauxchievement.
In my next video I will explain the psychology behind fauxcheivement and point out the real underlying problem in our education system today.
"people with advanced degrees in every subject are prone to failing..."
Hello and welcome to the second part of my Nurturing Education Policy video series.
In this episode I'm going to identify the true underlying problem in education.
But, first, I'm going to explain the psychology of fauxchievement.
The key to understanding fauxchievement is knowing the relationship between learning and motivation.
There is a spectrum of motivation that goes from more controlled motivations to more autonomous motivations.
If you engage in activities to attain rewards or to avoid punishments then you are on the controlled side of the motivation spectrum.
If, on the other hand, you engage in activities because they are consistent with your identity and values or just for enjoyment then you are on the autonomous side of the spectrum.
The further a student progresses towards the autonomous side and away from the controlled side means we can expect them to do what matters the most in education: show up, pay attention, and invest their time and energy in doing the work.
It's obvious, I hope, that not showing up and not paying attention are going to cause problems, but, you might be thinking,
"Doesn't doing the work take care of itself?
"I mean, of course, if they don't do the work then they won't get the grades.
"But, if they just keep doing the work to get the grades then mastery just naturally follows eventually, right?"
Mastery depends on the highest qualities of motivation (what might also be called a good attitude).
The highest qualities of motivation in students depends upon a combination of
These three factors are fundamental psychological needs in the same way that air and food are fundamental physiological needs.
When some or all of these three factors are missing then motivation of the highest quality is not supported, in fact, when these factors are not supported then psychological well-being decreases as symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other forms of psychological distress increase.
And it also turns out that controlled motivation is not sustainable.
Therefore, in the absence of sustainable motivation then the quality of learning is at risk of deteriorating.
In Mr. Schuster's class my attitude was not particularly good nor bad.
I was compliant with the demands he made and while my grades were fine real learning was absent.
When the quality of learning is low then students will fail to attain mastery, as I did.
If the quality of learning gets low enough throughout a student's school experiences then quality of life will deteriorate, as well.
When quality of life at school is low then the student is unlikely to see any value in seeking the outcomes that indicate achievement in that environment.
If the quality of life drops low enough then the student will seek other opportunities that might be better for meeting their basic needs which would tempt them to seize the day and leave school.
In this way of thinking the three questions I started with in Part 1 about dropouts, achievement, and failure to attain mastery are all just symptoms of different degrees of severity for a single problem.
A single problem with the ways that traditional schools tap into students' motivations.
Given this understanding the obvious solution to all three of the problems is for schools to support autonomous motivation.
But that's where the deeper reality of how schools deal with children is deeply affected by education policies that express and systematically reinforce certain societal expectations about the treatment of children which tend to cause the thwarting of psychological needs and are, therefore, the true underlying problem.
We live in a society that is distinctly uncomfortable with autonomously motivated people, especially children, and has created education policies that systematically diminish the autonomy of everyone in the system.
It also turns out that people who do not have autonomy do a very poor job of supporting the autonomy of others.
So, current trends in the education policies coming from on high which usually increase the degree of outside control of districts, schools, and classrooms creates a classic catch-22 for front line teachers who are near the bottom of the hierarchy in our school system.
Competent teachers know what to do about the immediate problems that confront them and their students (which usually involves someone exerting more autonomy, even if it's only the teachers), but if they do what they know to do then all too often the system will penalize them for it because of it's bias for control and against autonomy support.
My site, teach-kids-attitude-1st.com, is becoming about how to organize changes in policy to address those symptoms at the level of the school, the district, and state and federal government by addressing the real underlying problem.
The central challenge is this, How can we co-create systems of autonomy support to replace the systems of control that are dominant in our education system?
My site includes some information about what it takes on the front lines, but the primary focus is becoming the systems and how to create a system of education policies at all levels that nurture everyone involved.
So now, let me reframe this discussion in terms of solutions to the real problem:
But, I know that in your head you're really asking:
In the third part of this video I will discuss the role of education policy and it's relationship to nurturing.
"…fundamental psychological needs…"
Welcome to the third episode of my Nurturing Education Policy series.
We left off of Part 2 with the question of whether it is reasonable to expect our school system to nurture not only the children, but the teachers, principals, support staff, and district officials, as well.
Even though nurturing children is not the central purpose of our schools the fact that adults in schools take responsibility for children invokes that moral duty.
Appropriate education policy is the key to making sure our system of schooling meets the basic obligation to nurture all the children in their care.
Consider a parallel example, if you are a surgeon and you need to perform surgery then killing germs with sterilization as part of antiseptic protocols is not your central purpose, but it is a basic obligation of your hospital with guidance from the policies of our healthcare system to ensure that the equipment and the surgical theater itself are sterile before surgery is performed and you, the surgeon, as a matter of professional integrity must conform to antiseptic protocols.
What I'm saying is that education today is in the same situation as medicine was in the 1800's before antiseptic protocols were general practice and before germ theory was accepted as the explanation for why those protocols were effective.
So, in the case of education, if you are a teacher and you need to teach children academic skills then nurturing them is not your central purpose, but it is a basic obligation of your school with guidance from the policies of our education system to ensure that the children experience adequate nurturing such that they are motivationally ready before instruction is delivered and you, the teacher, as a matter of professional integrity must conform to nurturing protocols.
That, in a nutshell, is the new direction of my website, teach-kids-attitude-1st.com.
Nurturing means ensuring basic needs are met as a matter of course.
Today, at district, state, and federal levels education policy attempts to academically enrich children's lives without first meeting their basic psychological needs.
Therefore, we currently have a school system that forces adults responsible for nurturing children to sacrifice that duty for instructional bookkeeping; this is wrong.
It's like being a surgeon in the civil war era when they did not sterilize anything first; it works sometimes, but it's also gambling with people's lives.
You might not be familiar with surgical practices from the civil war era, so here's a pertinent quote from an article in the International Journal of Infection Control,
"Figures collected [in 1874] from 'all the great centres of civilisation' for amputations in the largest hospitals by surgeons of 'consummate skill' showed a 30-50% death rate after major amputations.
"In fact it was safer to be operated on at home, than in hospital."
Another account of infection in the 19th century gives base rates ranging from 40-80%.
For comparison current rates of all hospital infections are about 7% (and if you would like to check out my sources there are links on my web site below the video.)
In the 1800's, due to the predominant belief in the miasma theory which asserted that bad smells cause disease, surgeons would be more concerned about whether the windows were open or closed than whether they had washed the blood of the last patient off of their hands, that was wrong.
And I included the bit about surgery being safer at home because today in education we may have a similar situation.
In the United States over 2 million children are home schooled and they are claimed to be more reliably educated as measured by standard methods, than their traditionally schooled peers.
The situation in education today is like the situation of surgery in the late 1800's, the mental models that guide institutional policies are inadequate to the task and when it's done at home the results may be better than at most institutions.
I will discuss that mental model in more detail in my education Reform video.
So, providing instruction to children who are not autonomously motivated to learn what is being taught needs to become just as unthinkable as performing surgery without the benefit of antiseptic protocols.
In the final episode of this series I will discuss compulsory schooling policies and finally answer the question of whether or not it is reasonable to expect schools to nurture everyone in the system.
"Surgical Wound Infections: A Historical Review"
by Bill Newsom in the International Journal of Infection Control [4:1]
"Another account of infection in the 19th century..."
"...infection rates are less than 7% in America..."
"...over 2 million..."
Research Facts on Homeschooling (2011) by B. D. Ray http://www.nheri.org/Research
"...claimed to be more reliably educated..."
"my education Reform video."
Hello, my name is Don Berg. Welcome to the final episode of this series on Nurturing Education Policy.
Compulsory schooling policies in the United States today force schools to perform two core functions: academic enrichment and custodial care.
I have no problem with schools having those as core functions.
But, district policies typically force teachers and children into the same room then attempt to dictate their behavior.
Even if teachers can achieve the status of benevolent classroom dictators, this is the wrong model of power to teach children living in a democratic society.
I have more to say about that in videos on my teaching philosophy and the hidden curriculum.
Worse yet, schools are being forced to kowtow to standards and testing regimes that pressure everyone to ignore the basic human needs of teachers and children in order to keep up with the instructional bookkeeping that is required to stave off dire punishments from state and federal authorities.
What if hospitals and surgeons were regulated this way?
If you go into the hospital for surgery then you will probably have to stay there for a while and the hospital then has to serve the two core functions of providing surgical services and custodial care.
If they were regulated like schools and teachers then the surgeons jobs would depend on making people get surgeries and the hospitals would face reorganization or closure if their patients don't recover fast enough.
Standards for recovery time would be normed with the expectation that every patient will recover from their surgery within, say, 4 days by 2014.
This would be a recipe for medical disaster, of course, because it would bias surgeons towards recommending surgeries as a matter of course, but then recommending the particular surgery that is most likely to enable a quick recovery, even if a different surgery might do a better job of solving the medical problem.
This kind of policy would encourage hospitals to discharge patients without full consideration of their individual healing needs.
Of course, most doctors and most hospitals would still do a basically good job, but the policies would create the conditions that would inevitably invite problems.
In education this kind of disaster is unfolding because high stakes testing and universal standardization systematically distorts the judgements of school administrators and front line teachers.
Despite their best natural intentions to nurture the children in their care, their caring behaviors are slowly being replaced by bureaucratic behaviors that serve relentless systematic demands for instructional bookkeeping; this is wrong and we can do better.
Compulsory schooling as custodial care should be about guaranteeing every child access to a nurturing community environment that utilizes one of many variations on democratic power structures to implicitly teach the basic skills of citizenship.
On the other hand, compulsory schooling as academic enrichment should be organized to ensure that instructors can provide professional services to maximum effect and at optimal efficiency to children who are motivationally ready to meet the highest standards of behavior.
We can do better by our teachers and children by making schools universally safe and welcoming communities that nurture children and where academic instruction flourishes as a sought after enrichment experience.
Nurturing children in schools is like antiseptic procedures in hospitals, it's not the core purpose, but, it is absolutely necessary for the core services rendered to meet basic standards of professional integrity.
My website is about creating education policy that reflects basic standards of professional integrity.
Promoting this agenda is necessary because some education professionals and most of the policy makers who determine how educators are held accountable do not seem to realize the proper role of nurturing in education, in the same way that doctors in the 1800's did not realize the role that antiseptic protocols could play in preventing infections.
I think it is important to note that it was not a theory that lead to better practices in medicine, it was better practices that lead to better theories.
Here's a quote from a University of Florida School of Medicine article about the earliest antiseptic protocol,
"[Ignaz] Semmelweis, a Hungarian physician from the 1800s who specialized in surgery and obstetrics/gynecology, is known today as the 'savior of mothers.'
"He is credited for finding in 1847 that the incidence of puerperal fever, which typically afflicted women who recently gave birth, could be drastically reduced by the use of hand-washing standards in obstetrical clinics."
The routine of washing hands as a standard medical procedure was discovered to be effective at preventing infections before the germ theory that would explain why it was effective was accepted.
This practice before theory pattern may be true in education, as well.
Recent research, including my own, suggests that there are alternative schools that have similarly pioneered nurturing practices in the absence of a proper theory that explains the role of nurturing in education.
All the research on patterns of motivation in mainstream schools for 30 years have shown declines in intrinsic motivation which suggests a pervasive thwarting of basic psychological needs.
Now, home schooling and democratic education are alternative school practices that go back at least 50 to 100 years.
A few small studies have collected data that suggest that students participating in those practices maintain their levels of intrinsic motivation from which we can infer that those kinds of schooling systematically nurture those children.
What encourages me to take such a small amount of data so seriously is, first, that the research in this line has shown causal links between nurturing as psychological need satisfaction and intrinsic motivation and, second, that the studies in regular schools anticipated that these results would be possible.
So, is it reasonable to expect schools to nurture children?
No, it is unreasonable in the sense that what motivates the need for nurturing is not a logical, reasoned argument, it is a moral commitment.
Adults responsible for children must nurture them, that is simply a universal moral duty.
The fact that the duty exists is not open to debate.
On the other hand, it is reasonable to question how we accomplish that task and whether our programs and policies to do it are doing it well enough.
There are important questions that we need to be logical about and have thoughtful discussions on, but expecting schools to nurture children is simply the moral foundation upon which a discourse about schools must be build.
And the research on meeting the basic need for autonomy, which is an important part of nurturing, is clear that people who have their autonomy supported are better at providing autonomy support than those who have their autonomy needs thwarted by being controlled.
So, we have to nurture everyone in the system through education policy in order to ensure that the children will get the nurturing that is their due.
The lesson of history is that we have everything we need to make the necessary changes, long established successful practices and a theoretical basis for empirically determining what's effective and why.
The task at hand is to formulate school policies at every level from the school building to the Federal Department of Education that systematically root out and eliminate the barriers to nurturing while simultaneously providing systematic reinforcement of nurturing behaviors.
Most of my site will be devoted to wrestling with the myriad of questions that naturally arise from being an adult-responsible-for-children in the roles of teacher; principal; district official; or state or federal education policy maker, so if you are committed to ensuring the well-being of everyone in our school system, then please educate yourself about how we can create an education policy framework for making sure children get the nurturing they deserve and join in the discussion.
Thanks for watching.
"...videos on my teaching philosophy and the hidden curriculum."
Hidden Curriculum and education Psychology
[[link to teaching philosophy page coming soon]]
"...a Hungarian physician..."
"A few small studies of home schooling and democratic schools..."
Berg, D.A., Corpus, J.H. (2013). Enthusiastic Students: A Study of Motivation in Two Alternatives to Mandatory Instruction. Other Education: The Journal of education Alternatives, 2(2), 42-66
Vedder-Weiss, D., & Fortus, D. (2011). Adolescents’ declining motivation to learn science: Inevitable or not?. Journal Of Research In Science Teaching, 48(2), 199-216. DOI: 10.1002/tea.20398
"...studies in regular schools anticipated those results..."
Gottfried, A. E., Fleming, J. S., & Gottfried, A. W. (2001). Continuity of academic intrinsic motivation from childhood through late adolescence: A longitudinal study. Journal of education Psychology, 93, 3-13. DOI: 10.1037/0022-0622.214.171.124
"...causal links between nurturing as psychological need satisfaction and intrinsic motivation."
Deci, E. L., & Moller, A. C. (2007). The concept of competence: A starting place for understanding intrinsic motivation and self-determined extrinsic motivation. In A. Elliot & C. Dweck (Eds.), Handbook of Competence and Motivation (pp. 579-597). New York, NY: The Guilford Press.
Reis, H. T., Sheldon, K. M., Gable, S. L., Roscoe, J., & Ryan, R. (2000). Daily well-being: The role of autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin, 22, 419-435 . DOI: 10.1177/0146167200266002
Sheldon, K. M., Ryan, R., & Reis, H. T. (1996). What makes for a good day? Competence and autonomy in the day and in the person. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 22, 1270-1279. DOI: 10.1177/01461672962212007
Véronneau, M. H., Koestner, R. F., & Abela, J. R. Z. (2005). Intrinsic need satisfaction and wellbeing in children: An application of the self-determination theory. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 24, 280-292.
"…the studies in regular schools anticipated that these results…"
Gottfried, A. E., Fleming, J. S., & Gottfried, A. W. (2001). Continuity of academic intrinsic motivation from childhood through late adolescence: A longitudinal study. Journal of education Psychology, 93, 3-13. DOI: 10.1037/0022-06126.96.36.199
P.S. Another organization that is championing nurturing education policies is IDEA.