The words and actions of teachers can act as encouragement when the focus is on the learner and the process of learning, or they can act as praise when the focus of teacher attention is on the product or outcome of learning. The distinction between praise and encouragement is important. Students can’t receive praise if they have not learned, but they can get encouragement to help them learn.
Many teachers believe that praising students will stimulate them to behave appropriately and this is often true if students can accomplish the task required. When praise is reserved only for difficult tasks or given too freely, it loses its effect. It may be interpreted by students as manipulation and be seen by them as meaning that they have measured up to another’s arbitrary standards.
Encouragement always involves the student and their efforts to learn, whereas the focus of praise should always be student behavior. Typical statements of praise and their encouragement equivalents are:
‘I am pleased that you topped the history test’
‘Ten out of ten, good girl’
‘You were the best violinist at the concert!’
‘You were the best monitor we have Sandra!’
‘You have the neatest writing in class’
‘I am so proud of your artwork’
‘I see that you enjoy studying history.’
‘You must really enjoy maths!’
‘You have really practiced hard on the violin this year.’
‘I appreciate your help in the classroom Sandra.’
‘Looks as though you are really enjoying your writing.’
‘It is nice to see that you enjoy art.’
A two part interactive Teacher Teaser may be found below. Part one focuses on identifying whether a statement is either praise or encouragement and part two focuses on principles that best describes the use of praise.
Instructions: Simply click on your choice from the options provided
Instructions: In this quiz there are 10 questions with multiple answers. Simply click on the answer you think is correct, then on the ‘Show Answer’ button to find out the correct answer. When you have finished the quiz your results will be displayed.