Effective classroom management remains the goal of every teacher in an attempt to improve student achievement. In teacher education and in-service training programs, the importance of using praise in the classroom has been proclaimed.
There have been numerous studies on using place in the classroom as a way of inspiring students to start or continue performing the desired behavior. For example, some teachers would say, “I will offer praise if a student does something to deserve it.” Another would say, “I will increase the use of praise, that is the best way of encouraging students to maintain the desired behavior.”
In this article, we are going to assess the benefits or otherwise of using praise to inspire students in the classroom.
What is praise?
It is a favorable response to students’ good work or good behavior or conduct that goes beyond mere affirmation or constructive feedback (Brophy, 1981: 270). From the definition, it can be noted that praise consists of a comprehensive response by the teacher to student behavior. This is more than feedback or a mere affirmation. Words such as “okay”, “right”, and “correct” does not amount to praise.
The reinforcement theorists recommend praise in the classroom widely. They conclude that because of the following reasons:
- The use of praise is less costly. This is contrary to the case of other concrete rewards or reinforcers. Praise is free, and you don’t require any money to purchase it. For example, the cost of extrinsic rewards such as crisps, chips, etc. are expensive and can impose a burden on the teacher.
- Praise is beneficial because it is less time-consuming in its implementation. Sometimes it takes time to procure extrinsic rewards or reinforcers to issue to students for good work or behavior. With this, students sometimes forget the reason why they are being rewarded. This defeats the purpose for which the reward is being offered.
- Praise helps in fostering closer and healthier relationships between students and teachers. Issuing praise to meritorious students for good work or behavior makes you attractive to students. This gets them closer to you, and your relationship with them will improve.
- It helps bolster students’ self-esteem. Praise aids students to understand that they can achieve significant success if they put in the necessary efforts. Equally, it supports students to understand their competencies and assists them in utilizing them.
- It may solve the concern of bribing students. Opponents of the use of rewards in the classroom argue that issuing physical rewards is like bribing students to put up or continue putting up desired behaviors. However, praise is not as concrete as other extrinsic rewards and is less likely to perform the function of a bribe in any instance in the classroom.
How to Praise Effectively
Praise can be extremely useful if done effectively. It performs the rule of giving information to students on their work or behavior.
It equally serves us every enforcement and can provide encouragement and support for students. Ultimately, if done effectively please can establish a healthy relationship between students and their teachers.
It is therefore critical for teachers to know when and how to give praise. This will help them to reap the benefits of their praise. This session will be categorized into two subheadings: 1. When to Praise and 2. How to Praise.
When to praise?
Below are the circumstances within which you should give praise to students in the classroom according to Brophy (1981):
Give Genuine Praise for Genuine Progress or Accomplishment
Make sure your praise is genuine for genuine accomplishments or progress by a student. This will help ensure the quality and credibility of your price.
Do not overly vociferously give praise, or else it will endanger the credibility of your praise. Every student has his or her past achievements and present expectations.
Due to this judge the progress an accomplishment or students based on that. Individualize your judgment of progress and do not follow rigid standards according to yourself by comparing students to other students.
Please When Students May Not Realize or Appreciate Their Accomplishments
Some progress ah obvious while others are not. Make sure you give specific and noteworthy aspects of students’ progress to their understanding and appreciation.
This will give them information on how far they have progressed. It will also show them the reasons why you like their work or behavior.
Finally, it reinforces student’s confidence by communicating to them that they can achieve great success if they work for it.
Praise Students Who Respond Well to Praise
Some people do not respond positively to praise. That’s why they feel uncomfortable or embarrassed when praised, especially when it is offered in public.
On the other hand, some people greatly feel reinforced or encouraged when praised, whether publicly or privately.
In that case, you need to know your students well. Comprehending them will aid you to appreciate what encourages each individual and with that, you can provide the appropriate reward to everyone. Don’t give a one-size-fits-all reinforcer in your classroom.
How to Praise?
Praise is bound to fail if you don’t do it well. Hence, it is therefore crucial for you to give praise that is informative, encouraging, and reinforcing. The following tips will guide you in offering effective praise:
Make sure your place is informative or appreciative
Praise should be targeted at informing students about their competencies or accomplishments and how valuable they are.
Praise should not be used as a form of manipulating students or controlling them. It should not also be meant not to give any information at all about students’ status and accomplishments.
It should aid students to appreciate the ability to think and solve problems. Your praise should not place students in a position where they are competing with their colleagues.
Finally, your praise should concentrate on identifying the desired relevant behaviors of all students and not on you the teacher.
Praise must be individualized
Students have different personalities strengths and weaknesses. Therewith, students have diverse experiences and current expectations especially expectations regarding their performance in class.
So, when given prices judge students’ progress or accomplishments based on their past accomplishments.
Do not judge the progress of a student based on those of his or her friends. Else, your praise will fall flat and the student will feel discouraged.
Praise should be specific to the particulars of the students’ progress
Offer specific praises to students for specific accomplishments. This suggests that you should not give general praise for a general accomplishment.
For example, don’t say “That is good.” This is because this statement is not specific and not particular to the reason why you are praising the students.
Praise should be natural and direct
Praise should not be theatrical or intrusive. It should be done simply and direct. It is necessary to employ your natural voice. Overdramatizing the praise can make it fall flat.
This is because using theatrical statements can end up embarrassing the student rather than encouraging him/her.
You can use nonverbal messages such as a smile, an appreciative tone, a pat on the back, etc. to accompany verbal praises. This will reinforce the effectiveness of your praises.
Praise should be credible and display a variety
Don’t overly praise students for not deserving accomplishments. Make sure they deserve the praise; otherwise, your students will begin to ignore you and your praises.
Recognize the previous accomplishments of students and monitor their progress until you are convinced, they deserve praise before you can issue.
If students get to know you don’t mean or monitor their progress before praising them, they will not consider the praise to be credible. In that instance, praise will fail to perform its function.
Praise must be contingent on genuine progress
Achieving objective accomplishments is necessary to warrant praise. Low-quality achievements must not be praised unless it’s genuine progress for the student involved.
In a nutshell, praise is only when noteworthy progress has been achieved by a student.
Most praises must be done privately
It is sometimes pleasant to praise a genuine achievement publicly, in front of the class or school assembly. However, it can sometimes be problematic.
Some students get embarrassed when praised openly, probably because it gives them much attention among their colleagues. It may sometimes generate problems for students, especially in their relationships with other students.
Therefore, you must consider so many things before going ahead to issue praise to students in the public.
Your praises must attribute success to effort and ability
Praise must inform students that their progress is due to their abilities and the hard work they put into the action. That’s it should enable them to know that if they put in the needed efforts, they can achieve great mastery.
Try to achieve a balance between the roles of the two in the success of the students. This must be factored into your praises to make them effective.
Praise must attribute the achievement of progress to intrinsic motivation
Your praise must imply that students put in the necessary efforts to achieve their accomplishments. This is due to the case that they enjoy the tasks involved and want to develop skills relevant to perform
Remember, the fundamental motive of using rewards such as praise is to increase students’ intrinsic motivation to perform or otherwise certain behaviors in your classroom.
Therefore, you must make sure to include or give praise that implies that the student achieves the progress because of his or her intrinsic desire to achieve them.
For example, you can use the following statement:
“You worked hard and concentrated on your lessons today. I can see that you are trying to do your best.”
Supporting students to develop intrinsic motivation for good behaviors and good academic work must remain your priority if you want to manage behavior in the classroom effectively.
Praise must consider the culture of the student involved
In today’s classroom, we experience cultural diversity. This dictates everything we do with our students in the classroom.
Therefore, we need to consider the culture of students regarding praise and how they respond to it. You equally have to be mindful of how you deliver praise to students.
Be careful not to provide culturally insensitive praises to students in the classroom. Else, it will sabotage your relationship with your students.
Characteristics of Ineffective Praise
Having explored the ingredients of effective classroom praise, we must look at what does not constitute effective praise. These are:
- Praise is given randomly: This praise is not contingent on the students achieving any progress. It’s not also systematic such that it is not based on genuine progress on the part of the student.
- It is not specific: If you offer praise that doesn’t specify the particular progress or accomplishments for which it is being issued, it will lose its purpose. Praises should not be limited to the broadly constructive response of the teacher for students’ good conduct or work.
- It lacks credibility, spontaneity, and variety: Praise should empower students to recognize that you have actively assessed their previous accomplishments and convinced them they deserve praise. This improves credibility, spontaneity, and variety among praise issued to everyone if necessary. However, if that’s lacking the praise will fall flat.
- If issued to students for mere participation in performing a task: Praise should be bestowed for both participation and attainment of specific performance criteria. If issued for only one, praise will not be effective.
- It doesn’t include any information: Some praises do not provide information to students about their competence and why their achievement is valuable. These praises are not effective. Make sure your praises convey information on the value of the progress made.
- Determining the praise based on the progress of other students: Praise has to be individualized according to students’ previous progress and current expectations. It is harmful to measure a student’s progress based on other students’ accomplishments.
- It is issued not emphasizing the hard work or efforts put in by the student involved: Recognize the efforts of the student in achieving the accomplishments, or else praise will lose its function.
- It encourages students to compete with others: Praise should orient students to make comparisons to their previous accomplishments and not to the accomplishments of other students. However, if your praise sets students against one another, it will not be effective.
- It attributes students’ success to purely external factors or ability alone: Praise must assist students to know that success is dependent on the interplay of both one’s ability and external factors and not only one.
- It is culturally insensitive: It is issued without regard to the culture of the diverse students in the classroom.
From the above, we noticed that students will not be encouraged through praise unless it is offered effectively. From there, we identified the qualities of effective and ineffective praises according to Brophy (1981). Following the above guidelines will help you give praises that are impactful on your students.