Reinforcing effort and providing recognition are among the proven strategies that positively influence student learning and behavior. Teachers, however, sometimes feel confused about the effective use of praise for reinforcing and recognizing students.
Reinforcing effort and providing recognition are among the proven strategies that positively influence student learning and behavior. Teachers, however, sometimes feel confused about the effective use of praise for reinforcing and recognizing students. Commonly, questions are posed about whether or not to provide students with tangible reinforcers and the best approaches to use for recognizing student effort and achievement.
In a recent review of the literature, Gable, Hester, Rock and Hughes (in press) provide teachers with answers to such questions. The authors examine teacher use of classroom praise as one of several basic behavioral strategies. Meaningful findings are reported and a few highlights appear below.
- The power of praise increases when it is delivered in close proximity to the student and in a manner acceptable to the student (e.g. verbal or nonverbal, public or private).
- Feedback in which the teacher describes precisely the behavior is more effective than simple statements like, “Good job”. For example, a teacher might say, “I really like the way you raised your hand and waited to be called on before speaking” or “You did a great job thinking through all three steps of that math problem in order to come up with the correct answer”.
- Tangible rewards should be used sparingly. However, for students with a history of gaining attention by misbehaving, teachers may want to pair verbal, descriptive praise with more tangible reinforcers.
- Praise works best in combination with other evidence-based strategies, including increased opportunities to respond correctly. Gable, et. al. note that when teachers increase a student’s opportunity to respond correctly (at least 75%), the result is higher rates of academic engagement and, in turn, an increased opportunity for teachers to acknowledge successful student performance.
Further information on reinforcing effort and providing recognition is contained within this issue of the T-TAC Network News. You may also wish to visit the (broken link) What Works Clearinghouse and the Iris Center. Keep in mind that teachers who acknowledge successful performance positively influence their students’ attitudes and beliefs about accomplishment.
Gable, R.A., Hester, P.P., Rock, M., & Hughes, K. (in press). Back to basics—rules, praise, ignoring and reprimands revisited. Intervention in School and Clinic.