Here’s the question; to praise or not to praise? Classrooms are rife with misunderstanding; how frequently should teachers use praise in their classrooms? How can they use it effectively? And how do teachers avoid overusing it?
We all value being recognised and rewarded for our efforts. Praise nurtures our confidence and self-esteem, and there’s a place for it in each and every lesson. Without it, we unintentionally foster a cold, clinical school culture. When it’s used well, it can stimulate pupils and support a constructive and positive classroom environment. However, students easily recognise false praise; they understand whether or not their work was their best effort.
Some newly qualified teachers – and others, not so new – are guilty of lavish over-praising. They resort to what’s easy: praise, praise and some more praise. They throw superlatives about like confetti, even when presented with the most unintelligible of grumbled answers. But their fixation with praise has the undesirable side effect of making their pupils idle, lazy and indifferent.
“Praise usually contains little task-related information and is rarely converted into more engagement, commitment to learning goals, enhanced self-efficacy, or understanding about the task,” write Helen Timperley and John Hattie in The Power of Feedback. To move on from this, praise in classrooms must transition away from nonspecific “good” to giving precise feedback alongside learning goals. When used sensibly, praise tells pupils that they are headed in the right direction with a task and clearly defines which skills they need to repeat as they continue, to improve the quality of their work
Praise should be used to recognise progress, engagement and persistence. Teachers and tutors must acknowledge those pupils who have shown hard work and resilience to overcome their challenges, irrespective of their intellectual ability. Through praising pupils for demonstrating real effort we raise our benchmark for quality.