Click for video about avoiding the appearance
of unsolicited help.
Barry Zimmerman and Manuel Martinez-Pons (1990)
suggest that when you offer unsolicited advice or help, students
believe the advice or help signals low ability. Sandra Graham and
George Barker (1990) found even stronger effects: Not only
do students being helped think of themselves as less capable, but
other students watching come to the same conclusion. Graham and
Barker also showed that expressions of sympathy following a substandard
performance, or praise after an easy task function in the same way.
They warned that such well-intentioned teacher behaviors can be
powerful and enduring “low-ability cues.” Even first graders attach
importance to teacher feedback styles. They believe, for example,
that teachers watch low achievers more and scold those they think
could do better.
||There are times when you know that a student
needs assistance, but is not requesting it. Instead of
walking directly to the student’s desk, your unsolicited help
is less obvious if you circulate around the room and randomly
stop at the desks of several different students before and after
visiting the needy student. A routine practice of randomly
stopping at student desks can help disguise unsolicited help.
Avoid asking the student if she is having trouble.
Instead you might begin by saying, "I like your opening topic sentence.
What kinds of examples will you give in the rest of the paragraph
to support your position?" or "Yes, you see clearly the first step
in this two-step math problem. How will you proceed to the
second step?" In both of these examples, a common thread exists.
First, the teacher begins with a positive comment on a real strength
in the student's work. Second, without focusing on the student's
ability, a question provides information about what additional avenues
the student may want to explore. Third, the statements place
responsibility for learning onto the student. You might also
try a neutral invitation for help, "How are you doing?"
Keep in Mind to...
put yourself in situations where the student can ask for assistance
or where you can offer assistance.
Check Your Understanding
- Stop at a variety of student desks
on the way to and from the desk of a student whom you believe
Next Section: Promote
Recognition of Progress During a Lesson
Previous Section: Help
Students Practice Lack-of-Effort Explanations for Poor Performance
c. 2000 - Del
Siegle - This material may not be reproduced or distributed
beyond this website.