Few parents aware excessive praise is not good for children’s learning, new study shows

The book, by Lee Elliot Major, Professor of Social Mobility at the University of Exeter, aims to equip parents with the best advice for their children, from engaging with schools to learning to read to choosing a school or college.

Few parents are aware praising children too much can harm their learning, a new study shows.

Education studies suggest we should praise sparingly so it is valued by children. Being praised for an easy task sends a subliminal message of low expectations.

Less than one in six parents (15 per cent) in a national survey agreed excessive praise can be harmful to learning.

The research shows most parents are unaware of some of the well-established education facts that could benefit their children’s learning and education.

The survey was commissioned for the launch of a new parenting book offering hundreds evidence-informed tips to empower parents to help their children in their education. The Good Parent Educator opens up the ‘black box’ of education so that parents know what is best for their children’s learning.

The survey was carried out in collaboration with the parent campaign group Sept for Schools.

The survey also found:

44 per cent of parents agreed that homework has little impact at primary school. Research shows that homework contributes little to children’s progress during the primary school years.

37 per cent agreed that testing what you know through quizzes or tests is the best revision strategy for children. Testing yourself is one of the most effective learning approaches and much more effective than highlighting or re-reading texts.

43 per cent agreed that taking an apprenticeship can lead to a much higher salary than many university graduates will earn. Studies show that many degree-level apprentices earn more over their lifetimes than some graduates.

The book, by Lee Elliot Major, Professor of Social Mobility at the University of Exeter, aims to equip parents with the best advice for their children, from engaging with schools to learning to read to choosing a school or college.

Top tips for parents outlined in the new book include:

  • Establish a daily routine of 20 minutes for your children’s reading during their primary school years. Ask questions before, during, and after reading. It helps if you can convey a love of literature yourself.
  • Praise your children sparingly so it’s valued. It is better to praise effort than accomplishment. This encourages a growth mindset. It’s best to focus on improving personal bests, rather than comparing with others.
  • Ask your school how they are using their best teachers to improve attainment. The quality of teaching is far more important than other school features such as class sizes or school uniforms. In every school there are teachers who are inspirational and those who need to improve their practice.
  • Adopt the ‘ten-minute rule’ for homework – the daily maximum for every successive year group. For example, pupils in their first year of primary school at age five (Year 1) should do no more than ten minutes of homework each night. Less is more, particularly in the early years. In each successive year add ten minutes to the time.
  • Ensure your children devote as much time to art and sport as scholarly study. Playing music, performing drama, producing a painting or sculpture, or playing a host of sports all have important educational value in themselves. They help to improve children’s confidence and are associated with increased self-esteem and wellbeing.

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. The total sample size was 4,440, of which 773 were parents/guardians of anyone aged 4 to 18 in full-time education. Fieldwork was undertaken between 6th – 8th September 2021. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

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