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Praising with Intent in the Classroom

"Praise, when used correctly, can help students become adults who delight in intellectual challenge, understand the value of effort, and are able to deal with setbacks. Praise can help students make the most of the gifts they have." - Carol Dweck


"Good job!"   "Way to go!"   "You're so smart!"   "You're the best!" 

How many times have you heard yourself, or another teacher, lavishing this type of effusive praise on students? Praise like this may cause students a temporary feel-good moment, but in the long term, these forms of generic, inflated praise can have a detrimental effect on student achievement.


What is the purpose of praise in the classroom?

Praising students with intent can reinforce positive behaviors, raise academic performance, and improve classroom relationships. Effective use of praise makes the classroom a more inviting and supportive learning place, for everyone.

In many classrooms, negative or corrective remarks readily outnumber positive comments. (Hawkins & Heflin, 2011) However, research shows a positive correlation between effective teacher praise and student engagement. (Blaze, 2014) Other studies illustrate the likelihood of desired student behaviors increases with specific praise from the teacher. (Strain & Joseph, 2004)

What are characteristics of effective praise?

  • Specific - The praise provides descriptive feedback about learning process or effort. Recommendations for further improvement can be included.
  • Contingent - The praise closely follows, and is explicitly tied to a desired behavior.
  • Sensitive - The praise builds relationships by showing an awareness of students' interests. The praise is not exaggerated nor insincere.

What are characteristics of ineffective praise?

  • Generic - The praise does not provide specific feedback to the student about what they did well.
  • Inflated - The praise is disproportionate to the accomplishment or effort required by the student.
  • Manipulative - The praise is intended to control student behavior. It is a verbal token rather than descriptive feedback.

When teachers are intentional with their use of effective forms of praise, the classroom develops a positive atmosphere where students are engaged in learning activities. Students will not only give a better effort, but they will also become more effective with praising each other. Increased student achievement will become a more likely consequence of improved communication, engagement, and relationships in the classroom.

"Every time teachers give feedback to students, they convey messages that affect students' opinions of themselves, their motivations, and their achievement." - Carol Dweck

Questions for your consideration:

  • How effectively is praise being used in your classroom or school?
  • What is your plan for becoming more intentional with your use of praise?
  • Why is it important to praise the performance rather than the performer?







References and Related Reading


Ivey, M. (2016). Growth Mindset: Rephrasing Praise. Teaching Channel. https://www.teachingchannel.org/blog/2016/12/09/rephrasing-praise/

Poindexter, N. (n.d.). Use Specific Language for Feedback and Praise. http://www.nea.org/tools/52080.htm

Curwin, D. R. (2015, August 11). 13 Common Sayings to Avoid. Edutopiahttps://goo.gl/m1KyYO

Dweck, C. S. (1999). Caution - Praise Can Be Dangerous. American Educator. http://www.aft.org/sites/default/files/periodicals/PraiseSpring99.pdf


Ask the Cognitive Scientist. (n.d.). http://www.aft.org/ae/winter2005-2006/willingham


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