Highland Learning and Teaching Toolkit

 Home | Inclusive & Enjoyable | Flexible  | Whole Learner | Active Citizens | Multiple Intelligence

| About this Toolkit | Parents | Practical Strategies SMT | Feedback | Site Map | Search

Link to Highland Council Website

Learning and Teaching should be Inclusive and Enjoyable:

Praise

 

 

Praise is a verbal or written form of reward for something positive which has been achieved.   It is generally accepted that praise is an important means of motivating pupils (though some writers distinguish between praise and encouragement).   However, research over the last 30 years has indicated that we need to be careful about how and when we use praise.

Points Arising from Research

bullet

Behaviourist approaches use rewards (including praise) as a means of conditioning pupils to respond positively to tasks.  Assertive Discipline, for example, makes use of rewards systems.

bullet

However, other research has found that praise may not have the effect intended and may be counter-productive when not used carefully.  For example, in several experiments rewards produced poorer results in tasks (see “Rewards and Learning” reference below).

bullet

Rewards for major achievement on completion of task are more effective than regular rewards during the process.

bullet

Praise can, in some circumstances, reduce confidence and willingness to tackle difficult tasks.

bullet

Teachers tend not to be as positive as they think they are.

bullet

An English study found that teachers tend to make positive remarks about academic work (though less so with older pupils), but negative ones about behaviour.

bullet

We expect to make and receive negative remarks (often joking put-downs) in our culture.

Key Elements of Praise

Value of praise

bullet

Praise is very important, but it should be used in a considered way

bullet

Praise can improve self-esteem, self-reliance, autonomy, achievement and motivation

bullet

It may be more effective for simpler, more mechanical tasks

bullet

Praise has been found to have different effects according to the gender, home background, abilities  and personality of pupils

bullet

Praise should be seen as encouragement, as part of a continuing process

How teachers tend to use praise

bullet

It is often used to control low-achieving pupils and such pupils often receive disproportionate amounts of praise

bullet

Praise for low-achievers is often of a general nature and not relevant to the task

bullet

Teachers can be conditioned by pupils to praise them

bullet

Teachers think of praise as reinforcement, but this may not be true - there is poor correlation between use of praise and success in learning

bullet

Praise is used particularly with very young children as a means of managing individuals and groups, but American research suggests this is not effective - brisk, smooth organisation of activities and instructions was found to be the most effective approach

bullet

In one study, when teachers began praising pre-school children for something they were already motivated to do, the motivation was reduced

Ineffective praise

bullet

Is random and unsystematic

bullet

Rewards mere participation in an activity and conveys no significant information

bullet

Uses the performance of other pupils as the basis for judging achievement

bullet

Attributes success to ability alone or to other factors such as luck or easiness of task

bullet

Places emphasis on extrinsic motivation - performing a task for praise or other rewards

bullet

Focuses attention on the teacher as an authority figure who controls and manipulates

bullet

Intrudes into the work on the task and breaks the flow of work/concentration

Dangers of ineffective praise

bullet

It may weaken self-motivation and can result in pupils seeking extrinsic rewards rather than doing work for its intrinsic appeal

bullet

Research showed that, when praise is frequent and lacks focus, pupils may offer answers more tentatively, eye-checking with teacher, apparently worried about pleasing him/her

bullet

Pupils used to receiving a lot of praise tend not to engage in more challenging tasks, preferring easier tasks and their easy reward from the teacher - such pupils also tend not to persist in demanding tasks and can be less confident when challenged

bullet

Even the most able may be deterred and may also not share answers with others, seeking praise only for themselves

bullet

It is unlikely to work with pupils who are not interested in pleasing the teacher - and this tends to be increasingly common as children get older

bullet

When a child has become accustomed to rewards, if the rewards are removed then the child may become demotivated

bullet

Some studies showed that when individuals are performing a task for rewards then performance can deteriorate

bullet

Some research has shown that rewards may be effective in the short term, but may not be in the longer term

Effective praise…..

bullet

Can take the form of “appreciation” in which positive feelings are expressed about and individual’s contribution

bullet

Can take the form of “encouragement” in which we try to  build the individual’s confidence to progress with tasks/challenges

bullet

Recognises that different individuals need different types/amounts of praise

bullet

Shows appreciation of individuals’ characteristics and what they bring to the classroom

bullet

Helps develop pupils’ self-confidence

bullet

Is related to the pupil’s achievement

bullet

Specifies particular details of the achievement, instead of being bland and general

bullet

Is linked to the satisfaction of target criteria, but can also be given for effort

bullet

Gives information about the value of the achievement and competence

bullet

Is delivered spontaneously in a natural tone of voice and in varied language

bullet

Is accompanied by body language which reinforces the message

bullet

Makes the pupil reflect on his/her approach to the task -  both during and afterwards

bullet

Relates present achievement to prior work

bullet

Is geared to the pupil’s ability and success in challenging tasks

bullet

Shows how further success can be achieved

bullet

Creates intrinsic motivation - desire to do tasks for their own sake

Reflection and Discussion

To what extent do you regard yourself as a positive teacher?

Do you feel you could use praise more effectively - for example by distinguishing between academic praise, behaviour-related praise and praise of personal qualities?

Some Activities Relating To the Issue of Praise

Key element

Objective

Action

 

Some examples and suggestions

Value of praise

Praise has been found to have different effects….

Consider your own feelings about praise - to what extent to you look for it or feel you need it?   Then consider a group of pupils and think about individuals and the way they are likely to feel about praise.

How teachers tend to use praise

Praise for low-achievers is often of a general nature and not relevant to the task

Have a colleague observe a lesson (or video-tape one) and audit the ways in which you use praise.   Who gets most?  What types of praise do you give?   How much is behaviour-related and how much academic?   What about the classroom as a “no put-down zone”?

Ineffective praise

Focuses attention on the teacher as an authority figure who controls and manipulates

Do you encourage individuals to take responsibility for themselves with positive remarks?   Do you use “positive strokes” to make pupils feel good about themselves and their work in your class?   A colleague’s audit can help you answer such questions.

Dangers of ineffective praise

Pupils may offer answers more tentatively

Is it possible that pleasing you looms too large in pupils’ minds?  Encourage pupils to make independent choices, even risky ones.  Give praise for work which shows this kind of self-motivated activity.

Effective praise…..

Is delivered spontaneously in a natural tone of voice and in varied language

Consider the actual words you use (a colleague’s audit can help).   Try to give pupils specific encouragement relating to what they have achieved.   Show genuine appreciation of individuals.

Selected References


Further Reading

Is Praise Always A Good Thing? by Ian Smith - Learning and Teaching Scotland P00XBB
ISBN: 1859551556
This summary of the arguments about praise contains practical suggestions and contains a reading list for further research.

www.lebanon.k12.mo.us/profdev/praise.htm
Gives a concise account of difficulties associated with use of praise in the classroom

www.austega.com/education/articles/effectivepraise.htm
A short list of features of effective and ineffective use of praise


webmaster
 

Last updated 20/08/2010
© Highland Council Education, Culture and Sport Service

Highland Schools Virtual Library