Education - Teachers
By: - at April 18, 2013

Praise: A Great Motivator for Student Achievement

Rewards More Than Punishments
group of students giving thumbs up

How often must I praise my students?  Should I use the positive approach to reinforce students’ actions?  Every day, educators come across these issues.  When learners of different preferences and attitudes come together in one class, teachers are to weigh the best practices that will benefit the majority, if not all of the class members.  When half the class is listening and the rest is doing something else, educators are caught in the middle of giving praises or making use of punishments.

What can make students want to learn more?  How can I help them achieve?  More than pushing students towards achieving things beyond the standard of what they can, teachers have to consider the power of assurances.  When standing in front of a class an educator might have the delivery of content in mind, but the students have a multitude of concerns in theirs.  Nobody wants to hold classes in front of a bunch of robots who make identical simultaneous answers to all the questions.  Above all, Spartan-style education is no longer regarded as the producer of students who are smart enough to face the real world.

The Power of Praise

A short phrase of affirmation whether spoken or written, is a very powerful driving force for students.  Unfortunately, research revealed that despite this many failed to utilize praise even in special education classes or primary school classrooms.  When given praises clearly, students tend to maintain or do better on their behavior or academic performance as living up to the expectation expressed.  For students, this is proof of a teacher’s approval.  It is proven that praise has been instrumental in raising students who possess strong motivation, perseverance, and determination to achieve through hard work.  This in turn will equip them with the much needed life skills outside the four corners of the traditional classrooms.

In addition, being considered a type of social approval, praises are known to help control students with behavioral issues.  With most children having these issues from variety of factors, praise gives affirmation that the child belongs to the group and will help students find their identity.  With this, class members find their membership in the circle as a sign of being meaningful and worthy.

Making the Most Out of Your Praises

attentive student

Though praises are proven to be effective sculptors of attitude and forces of achievement, one generic way of giving it does not work for everyone.  With varying personalities and attitudes, students take praises differently than their classmates.  It is then up to the teacher to know what kind of praise is given to what kind of class members.  A mere “Good job!” for example, might sound positive but it does not tell the students exactly what was done greatly.  Hawkins & Heflin (2011) claimed that when praises are coupled with exact behavioral descriptions, they direct students down the right track and even motivates them to do better.  So, the next time you have to praise your students, don’t just say “Good job!” Instead use something like, “Good job! You have achieved what was expected of you by following the instructions perfectly.”

good grade getting an a

Another way of giving praise effectively is to recognize hard work and a student's ability.  When correcting students’ essays, for example, don’t just say “Well-written!  You have the talent to become a writer!”  Instead, write something like “Excellent work!  You obviously done your research on the topic you have chosen.”  This tells the students clearly how you value their efforts.  This also reminds students that they need to work harder and better to be rewarded and recognized.

Summing it Up

Praises work differently on varying personalities and contexts.  When given correctly, it becomes an effective jump off point for students to achieve more.  As students are rewarded with teacher’s approval through praises, their performance will be directed and inspired.  This ultimately will create individuals who are hard-working, motivated and directed towards excellence.  Who knows, that silent kid in the corner may have talents you never seem to notice.  A single praise could launch him to excellence not just in school, but in life.





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