Lucy is almost 15 months old. She’s chunky, juicy, and has dimples that you can fall into. I was sitting on the couch after a typically awesome but tiring day when she grabbed the stool and started putting on her little demonstration.
I’m sure it’s very easy for you to see the sheer pride in Lucy’s face and body. We never trained her to do this, nor suggested it in any way. So if you’re like me, analogies for the process of learning are likely flowing through your brain like so many pints of Guinness in a Dublin pub.
The main connection I instantly made was to our conversations around student motivation and feedback. In the many great debates we have around this topic (extrinsic/intrinsic, rewards/punishments, badges, etc.), I feel we have a tendency to simultaneously overcomplicate and oversimplify the matter. Overall, I feel we need to resist the urge to turn it into Republicans vs. Democrats, because it’s when we become too sure in our stance that we walk down the road of confirmation bias.
What I see in Lucy is a need to
a) challenge herself
b) accomplish things she is inately compelled to pursue, and sees people around her doing
c) have a shared celebration of those accomplishments.
Which leads me to consider what a celebration or acknowledgement of an accomplishment entails. In our house, if our little baby gets excited about being able to stand by herself on a stool, we clap along with her and shout various affirmations. Is that praise? Is it feedback? Do we give babies different kinds of feedback than we do to our teenagers? Is she motivated intrinsically or extrinsically?
I’d love your thoughts on this. What other analogies do you see in Lucy’s video?
Stay tuned for an accompanying post in which I reflect on the extent to which culture impacts our notions of ‘punishment’ and ‘reward’.