How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
Praise students who have done well. This includes:
Lavish the student with smiles and positive attention. Show that you are really impressed. Whilst you do not want to over-do it, it is better to err on the side of enthusiasm than being noticeably underwhelmed.
It is very important to be specific. Say what they have done well. Point out the detail. Explain why you are impressed. Talk about the improvement or how they have followed specific guidelines.
You can also take the praise outside the classroom. If there are school awards, then these can be given. Writing to parents to tell them how well their child is doing can also be very powerful.
Mark, this is a really good essay! You are using irony properly and I particularly like the second sentence where you...
Thank you, Suki. You have sat quietly and worked well this lesson. I am going to nominate you for a gold star at tomorrow's assembly.
In the choice between reward and punishment, many studies have shown that reward is much better at encouraging good work and good attitudes. Punishment may reduce bad behavior, but it can also trigger retribution.
Between deliberate reward and punishment, being ignored can feel like a punishment when the student has put in a specific effort. If you do not recognize effort then they may decide to punish you by not working or behaving in disruptive ways that force you to lavish them with attention.
Weak praise is vague. 'Well done' does not say what has been done well, is rather brief, and may be seen as an insult. It sends a message that says 'I don't really know how well you did, but if I dish out vague praise then maybe you will work harder.' Students are wise to such short-cuts and generally do not appreciate them.
High praise for weak effort is also a danger as this devalues praise and teaches students that they do not need to work hard.
Many teachers who think students could do better fall on the wrong side of giving too little praise. Praise should always be proportionate and justified.