When we participate in a game or movement activity, how many things are we doing at one time?
The answer is probably quite a lot. This may include working with another person, thinking about where we are moving too, performing the movement sequence in the correct order, focusing on specifics that the educator has instructed us to do and many other things that go through our minds all the time.
When we move, it is not always clear to the learner what movement, or part of the movement, created the desired outcome. Additionally, we can achieve a desired outcome without the correct movement.
And here lies the issue with the term ‘good job!’. What was good? What was the job? Are you praising the outcome of my movement or the process I enacted to create that outcome?
This simple phrase has entered our lexicon as a throwaway phrase to provide affirmation that someone is doing something to the minimal standard that was expected. Hold the door open; ‘good job’, score a goal; ‘good job’, get the right answer in a mathematics test; ‘good job’, eat broccoli; ‘good job’, cross the street; ‘good job’, wake up in the morning; ‘good job’, didn’t hit your brother; ‘good job’.
The most infuriating element of ‘good job’ is that by simply changing the words of the phrase we can create a much more meaningful feedback statement that reinforces the desired behaviour to the learner. For example, when a child is throwing you can say ‘great point’ or ‘nice follow-through’ or ‘excellent step’. These are still two word pieces of feedback, but clearly illustrate the observable characteristics of the skill that we want to highlight and reinforce.
By making this change to your language, and being intentional with the phrases we put out to children rather than throwaway statements, we can create a culture of positive reinforcement of behaviours which benefits everyone involved.
This article is the opinion of Chris Wright, Manager of Physical Literacy Development at PISE. If you have any comments or questions about the article please contact us.