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By Phil Bartle, PhD

16. Do Not Criticise – Ever; Praise – Often:

See the module on participatory management: Positive Attitude. It explains that, when we criticise someone, they will not easily or automatically correct a mistake; they will put more effort on defending it, and on becoming less willing to follow your leadership. This principle, which is applied there to managing staff and volunteers, also applies here to leading participants towards literacy.

Expect your literacy participants to make mistakes; it is an important human characteristic (and distinguishes humans from God). How you respond to their mistakes will make a big difference to how well they will learn literacy from you. Stay calm, be tolerant, focus on the achievements.

Let us use a hypothetical example. Pretend that one of your literacy participants was trying to write: "The cat sat." Perhaps they have printed out: "The kat sot." Acknowledge that the participant has made progress; it is indeed a very difficult job to get even that far. Let your trainee know that more people will recognise the sat in the sentence if s/he wrote: "sat." (Do not even mention the "k" in "kat").

In general, the pattern of response you should make is: "Very good, and you can make it even better by ..." (the dot, dot, dot, differs according to what improvement you are suggesting). Without criticising, you can suggest an improvement.

In a rare case, the trainee might ask outright, "Is ‘sot’ wrong?" In basic literacy training, there is nothing that is wrong. Tell him or her that. It is merely that more people will understand what you want to say if you write it "sat" rather than "sot."

Praise achievements. Do not use superficial, insincere praise. Acknowledge truthfully the achievements. It is no easy thing to recognise a character, and to be able to print it so that others will also recognise it. That is a big achievement.

Rather than criticise to say something is wrong, gently point how something can be improved. See Sandwich: you sandwich (insert) the suggestion for improvement (not acriticism) in between praises (the bread).

An important slogan in management training is, "You do not have tobe bad to get better." Remember that your trainees will make mistakes; do not point out the mistakes, show them that they are not bad and that they can get better.

Notes on all of the above (long document)

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