More than Good Job: Effective Use of Praise in the Classroom
We would agree that all students should learn in safe, encouraging classrooms. One of the ways to help that happen is by using praise, one of the most powerful tools that any teacher can use. When used effectively in the classroom, praise can actually increase the social and academic performance of students and improve the classroom climate.
Consider some of these simple yet effective tips that can help you use praise effectively so that your classroom is even more welcoming, safe, and encouraging.
1. Be Specific. Most educators believe in the benefit of a “Good Job” or “Well Done” directed towards their students. The truth is, the benefits are much greater if the praise is specific. When students recognize that you are acknowledging their efforts toward a single goal, or how hard they work, they feel more validated in their efforts.
Instead of a simple “Great Job”, try it with something more specific, such as: “Great Job! You wrote so much for our writing session. That’s two paragraphs more than last week. I appreciate how dedicated you are!” This is both praising and encouraging, plus acknowledges improvement.
Specific feedback can also use open-ended questions to cue learners to reflect. Example: “Julian, your classmates were really focused on you as you presented. What do you think you did to grab everyone’s attention?” This question not only positively reinforces what a great job Julian did on his presentation, but invites him to reflect on what specifically he did that helped him perform well.
2. Be Subtle. There are moments when public recognition is appropriate but there are also times where remaining private is better. Studies have shown that young students often appreciate being complimented publicly, while adolescents “prefer private praise.” Likewise, a 2016 survey conducted by the University of Massachusetts Amherst revealed that 73 percent of students ranked “quiet verbal praise” as a “top 3” instructor response (p.157).
Quiet, subtle praise could mean eye contact and a smile from across the room. It could also mean PBIS Buck or a note folded over and left waiting on a student’s desk for them to find. Perhaps a subtle “I knew you could do it” reinforcer. Whatever it is, these small, subtle commendations feel less like praise and more like sharing a special – albeit quiet – celebratory moment.
3. Be Sincere. If you don’t feel it in your heart, they won’t feel it either. Don’t patronize. One time, one of my high school teachers commented to me, “Shauna, I always look forward to hearing what you have to say.” Alone, the statement sounds encouraging yet I knew that she was not sincere. As a student who talked quite a bit during class, her sarcasm was evident. Avoid forcing yourself to give positive praise if it is not sincere to that student and what that student brings to the classroom. For a talkative student, praise their ability to always communicate what is on their mind, but don’t praise them with insincerity.
Reminder: Utilizing praise in your classroom is an effective way of improving the climate and helping your students’ performance. Stay specific with your praise and stay sincere, and think about how each student could benefit from praise that you give.
Fefer, S., Demagistris, J., & Shuttleton, C. (2016). Assessing Adolescent Praise and Reward Preferences for Academic Behavior. Translational Issues in Psychological Science, 2(2), 153–162. doi: 10.1037/tps0000072
Visit my Free Resources section on this website at https://shaunafking.com/free-resources/ to download 25 Positive Responses to Negative Student Behavior. This free resource helps to focus on the positive while maintaining a level of respect and dignity for both teacher and student!
Looking for a staff development or training to promote student engagement or positive, equitable learning environments? Shauna King provides sessions that are educational and motivational. Visit King Professional Development Services website for more information or email us to learn more.
Copyright © 2019 King Professional Development Services, All rights reserved.