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Study Says Self-Reporting On Our Behavior Tends To Be “Positively Biased” – How I’ll Use This In The Classroom

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Sometimes, after a student who has been having behavioral challenges in class for awhile instead has a good day, I’ll ask him/her how they feel are help them contrast that with how they have felt after more difficult ones (I talk more extensively about this in my upcoming book). More often than not, this leads to a fruitful conversation about what they did differently.

But not always.

Some students don’t see, or are unable to acknowledge, the difference in their behavior.

Today, I read about a study that’s a few years old, but holds some interesting information.

It basically says that we tend to be “positively biased” (they also call it “self-enhancement”) when we think and describe our own behavior.

I don’t think this provides any brilliant insight, but I also don’t think it’s something that any of us think about much.

Tomorrow I’m going to try to apply this info in a very short lesson with my students. First, I’m going to describe the results of this study (every other week or so we do a short “life-skill” lesson like this, so they won’t be surprised — many of these lessons can be found in my upcoming book). Then I’m going to give an instance of this in my own teaching — what I learned when we videotaped my teaching a lesson (see Videotaping teachers the right way). I’m also going to give an example from my personal life at home.

Next, I’m going to ask them to think about two instances — one in school and one in home — when, in retrospect, they think they might have been “positively biased” in seeing how they were acting. I’ll ask them to write them down, and then share with a partner. I’ll ask a few students to share with the entire class, too.

Finally, I’ll ask students to take a minute to think about what they have learned, and how they can apply it to their lives. Again, we’ll follow the routine of writing and sharing.

I’ll end by sharing that I have learned that I should become more aware of how I might be coming across — I need to apply the reading strategy of “monitor and repair” (being more conscious of when we don’t understand a text and apply strategy to fix it — like looking for context clues, checking the definition of a word, make a connection to prior knowledge, etc.) more to my own life. I will also try to listen more to the feedback students and others give me.

My hope is that, in addition to possibly helping students monitor their own behavior more closely, this kind of lesson will be something I can refer back to when I speak with a student who doesn’t see a difference in their behavior (as I mentioned in my first paragraph).

What do you think about this idea? Any suggestions on how I can make it more effective?

(Also, see “How accurate are most people’s self-assessments?”)

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

One Comment

  1. When you hear a 14 year old say he doesn’t see why he should take his medication so that other people behave better, you realize the lack of introspection of children.
    For many of my students, they have a better day because other people behaved better. The do not see any contribution on their part. they don’t feel any sense of control in their lives, and maybe they’re right.

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