Classroom praise is a valuable resource every teacher has in their toolbox. It can encourage students with difficulty and reward learners who have studied diligently and worked hard on their language skills.
But not all types of praise have the same effect. Let’s take a look at different types of praise and how you can use them to increase your learners’ motivation and self-esteem.
Different types of praise in the classroom
There are three types of praise teachers commonly use – but they are not all created equal and are not all desirable:
- Personal praise: Here one praises a student for a certain skill or quality. For example, you could say something like: “You have a good memory for vocabulary” is an example of personal praise.
- Effort-based praise: This is when you comment on a student’s efforts. For example you could say “I can see that you really tried hard with this vocabulary homework – well done.”
- Behavioral praise: With this type of praise, you are commenting on a student’s behavior. An example would be: “You really paid attention during the vocabulary class – good job.”
So how – and when – should we use this type of praise in class?
Try not to praise the skills
The first type of praise – personal praise – should be avoided in class. research has shown that this type of praise does not have a positive effect on motivation.
In fact, praise for intelligence adversely affects student performance. When students were praised for their intelligence, they tended to be more concerned with their performance goals – for example, how many points they got on a test. Learning objectives, such as mastering a new skill, became less important to her.
In addition, personal praise has been shown to undermine students’ resilience to failure. Students showed less persistence in challenging tasks and less enjoyment of the challenge. They also fared worse than children who were commended for their efforts.
In addition, when you praise students for their ability, they tend to view intelligence or talent as a fixed characteristic. However, students who are praised for their effort are more likely to see skills as something they can improve. This helps develop a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset. It is important to instill a growth mindset in learners so that they can reach their full potential.
Read more about how you can help your students develop a growth mindset.
How to praise effort and behavior
When it comes to praising effort and behavior, what is the most effective way to do it? Here are some techniques you can use:
1. Be specific
A general praise like “good work” is nowhere near as effective as a comment that shows you are paying attention to the student. A precise compliment will have a much bigger impact on a student, for example: “I was really impressed with how much you focused during the listening exercise. Well done.”
2. Give praise in the moment
Immediate praise doesn’t have to be disturbing, but it shows students that you are paying attention and noticing good behavior and effort.
3. Avoid making comparisons with other students
Instead of saying, “You got the best grade in class – well done!” “You have a very high score on the reading test. Your hard work has really paid off during this tenure. “
4. Keep an eye on the praise
Before your class, choose three or four students who you would like to commend on the day. So you can be sure that every single student will benefit from the motivational power of effective praise in the classroom!
5. Personalize your praise according to the student
Young students enjoy being publicly praised, but shy students, older children, and teenagers prefer to give positive feedback quietly.
Don’t overestimate and watch out for your positive bias
It is important to be sincere. Older children, especially teenagers, have extremely low tolerance for insincerity. So don’t be tempted to praise students too often or too gushingly – it can even negatively affect your relationship with your entire class. Insincere praise can lead students to question your judgment.
It is also very important to be aware of your positive bias. Studies have shown that the teachers give the colored students more and more positive feedback on their work. It is done with good intentions, but it can actually be harmful. If you regularly overestimate students for minor accomplishments, it may mean that you have low expectations of those students. This can make your students feel like they may not be able to live up to the high expectations you should have for them.
So instead of overdoing it, focus on giving targeted and immediate praise to motivate your students, build their self-esteem, and develop their potential!