How often do you praise?

One of the required reading for my Master in Special Ed course struck a chord with me (well, actually, several articles did but I’m just writing about this one because…busy!).   (Beaman, R., & Wheldall, K. (2000); Teacher’s use of approval and disapproval in the classroom. Educational Psychology, 20, 431-446. )

Beaman and Wheldall found:

  1. teachers usually praise for academic behaviour (work, achievement, effort) – also see Dweck
  2. teachers rarely praise for good conduct/social behaviour
  3. positive correlations between teacher approval and on-task behaviour
  4. negative correlations between teacher DISapproval and on-task behaviour
  5. teachers respond more frequently to inappropriate (vs appropriate) social behaviour

There is a trend towards increased praise in the classroom and they posit it’s possibly also due to the change in operational definition of ‘praise’ to include non-verbal actions, e.g. gestures.

This made me reflect about my practice and how often ‘approval’ and ‘disapproval’ happen in my classes. Do academic behaviour and social behaviour have equal importance in my classes? Do my ‘disapprovals’ result in engagement or just look like it? Can I attribute on-task behaviour to my explicit ‘approvals’? Mind you, most of my students are well-behaved most of the time. So really, this should not even be an issue.

Still, I’ve never really looked at my classroom dynamics (social interactions) as a series of approval and disapproval – I wouldn’t normally even use these terms – e.g., I would never say: I approve of you using your mobile phone to capture notes on the board; I approve of you helping your peer; I disapprove of your coming in 5 minutes late every lesson…etc. I’m more likely to say:  that’s a really good question; it’s not ok to talk while another student is speaking, etc. (maybe  I say ‘ok’ too much?). There’s also the ‘look’ and that ‘tone’. haha.

Seriously, this is akin to feedback, for which I’ve used Petty’s Goals, Medals, Missions on a regular basis. In a previous post, I’ve written about my austerity in giving medals. I’m happy to report that I now make a concerted effort to balance out Medals and Missions, as best I can (@BiancaH80 was right that students do care about having both, preferably more medals than missions). Now, I just got to apply it to ordinary classroom scenarios; after all, every time we interact, we give ‘feedback’.

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One thought on “How often do you praise?

  1. @sailpip Phillip says:

    If you give lots of positive feedback, becomes easier to give more…

    A good reminder, to check if my feedback is in balance?
    In my current role i have the pleasure (not) of disciplining students. Today I tried to balance the feedback i give, I sat at the entrance to our college and welcomed students with a hello and a smile! I felt better!

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