Saturday, November 10, 2012

ESP: "Social rewards" to encourage pronunciation practice and change!

Clip art: Clker
Clip art: Clker
How's this for a conclusion? " . . . a person performs better when they receive a social reward after completing an exercise. There seems to be scientific validity behind the message 'praise to encourage improvement'. Complimenting someone could become an easy and effective strategy to use in the classroom and during rehabilitation."  Really?

As self-evident and "Pavlovian" as that may sound, there is actually an interesting twist in the research by Sugawara, Tanaka, Okazaki, Watanabe and Sadato, entitled, " Social rewards enhance offline improvements in motor skill," as reported by Science Daily. Two key terms there: offline and motor, meaning performance on a keyboard finger dexterity task. Those who were praised after a trial, regardless of their relative performance, tended to do better on the next one; those who weren't, tended not to, at least not as much. (Their earlier research had established the concept that a cash reward had about the same effect--in the same area of the brain.)

The extensive research on the effect of praise for behaviour other than "offline motor" skills is ambiguous as best. Verbal reinforcement, like all instruction, must be thoroughly contextualized and situated. How and when to provide praise, as opposed to "corrective" feedback in pronunciation work, is a skill that develops with experience and constant, informed reflection on classroom practice (such as watching yourself teaching on video regularly!)

To the extent that pronunciation change is "motor-based" the research is certainly relevant. That is, of course, especially the case in "haptic" work, where learners are given feedback initially (almost exclusively) on accuracy of pedagogical movement patterns (which are done simultaneously as the sound, word or phrase is spoken)--not accuracy of articulation of the sound in question. The explicit movement, touch and body resonance focus in EHIEP, for example, provides an analogous framework for such timely "social rewards" . . .  We need to "cash in" on this, so to speak.

 "Embodied social praise" (ESP!) I like that! Looking good!

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