For as long as I can remember teachers have been employing a variety of different techniques to keep their classes engaged and to try and improve learning outcomes. One age-long debate surrounds the old carrot or stick — should teachers focus on praising students for their work or on punishing them when they misbehave and do poorly? A new study suggests the praise is the way to go.
Researchers spent three years following the behaviors and school results of 2,536 school children living in three US states, from kindergarten through to sixth grade. In total, the team of researchers at Brigham Young University sat through 151 classes in 19 elementary schools.
In half of the classrooms, teachers were instructed to follow a behavioral intervention program called CW-FIT, in which students are informed of what social skills are expected of them to show in the classroom and are rewarded for doing so. In the other half of the classes, teachers employed their usual classroom teaching styles and management practices.
The results suggest that students showed 30% or more focus during classes when teachers were required to consider the number of praise statements that they’ve given, rather than the number of reprimands.
The more teachers that praised students for their proper behavior in class and the less they scolded, the more students were able to focus on what the teacher was explaining or training how to work on assigned tasks.
The time spent by students attending lessons and their academic performance are directly linked, previous studies have shown. As such, the new study shows that praise is an important tool in a teacher’s kit, meant to encourage students to work harder — and this may be particularly true for children who struggle at school or are usually disruptive in class.
Do you agree with this finding?