Teach English in PanwAn Zhen - Yancheng Shi

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In education, it is normal for teachers to praise students for their effort or ability, which creates a positive impact on the learning and social behaviour. As noted by Brophy (1981), praise is used as a reinforcing technique for positive behaviours so that students can make positive attributions to their behaviour and demonstrate higher levels of motivation. Yet researchers Gable, et al. (2009) noted that it was puzzling to see “why so many teachers make little use of it”. So, why is praised not used too often? Have teachers gone through enough training to provide effective praise? Do they reprimand students over praise to control student behaviours? Are praises predictable and not that sincere? It begs the question; how can teachers praise students in order to affect change in their behaviour and motivate them to do better in class? In this essay I would like to provide some insight on praise and how I’ve experienced giving praise during my teaching career. According to the American Psychology Association (n.d.), praise is a powerful tool to alter the mindset of students. Praising is not simply just commending students on trivial matters, it should be specific on the behaviour or effort and also be able to reinforce students through feedback. Brophy (1981) also concluded that the effective praise is dependent on the targeted behaviour and the specified particulars of the behaviour that is to be reinforced. In my initial attempts to praise students, I didn’t reinforce the student’s mindset as I said ‘Good work’. Looking back, it was more of a quick fix to the student feedback but it did not change the mindset nor did it motivate the student to do any better. Once I had observed carefully and started to specify the behaviours and efforts in their work, I was able to praise them and reinforce that specific behaviour to them. This allowed the student to continue this behaviour and also motivated them to be creative with their problem-solving skills. Praising students helps build confidence and motivate them to do better. In a published journal from the Macrothink Institute written by Hodgman (2015), he wrote that praising the student’s process is far more effective than praising the student themselves. Dweck’s (2007) research also supported the statement as she stated that students felt praise on their intelligence has reached its academic limit. By saying ‘You’re so smart’ exhibits a fixed mindset which doesn’t motivate students to push further. If students were praised on their process or effort and recognising how hard they’ve tried, this encourages the student to work well socially and smarter, which exhibits a growth mindset. These points support my previous experience as a teacher, as I praised on the process of the student, not only did they feel confident in their ability to solve a problem but they were persistent and always seeking challenges. Not all behaviours in class can be praised if students are being disruptive. It’s much easier to reprimand or criticise students especially if the student has a behaviour disorder. Studies have shown when a reprimand to praise ratio is high, it strengthens the teacher’s reprimanding behaviour compared to their praising behaviour. As teachers exercise their reprimanding methods it gives a negative reinforcement to the students. Pisacreta, et al. (2011) stated that teachers exhibiting higher rates of reprimand or any other reactive methods would result in increasing student misbehaviour. Pisacreta, et al. (2011) conducted a study on whether teachers were able to maintain a ratio of one to one praise to behaviour. Each classroom had fifteen to twenty students of different ethnicity, where they are separated from grade level. After their study, they had found that students were less disruptive in class by about twenty to thirty percent when teachers were praising students based on academic or social behaviour. The result was also supported by another study by Dufrene et al. (2014) where teachers provided behaviour specific praise (BSP) to a small group of students who have behavioural disorders. Based on these findings it is evident that students respond well to praise as a positive reinforcement compared to reprimanding which is a negative reinforcement. These findings were interesting as this worked with students who have behavioural disorders. So, understanding praising behaviours is beneficial for teachers in a classroom environment. During the start of my teaching career, my immediate action for class management was to reprimand or criticise the student behaviour, this got them under control for some time until they started being disruptive again. If I had praised their good behaviour after reprimanding, this would have acted as a positive reinforcer for the students. They would’ve continued with good behaviour and even extend that same behaviour to other activities like groupwork or schoolwork. From what I have researched and how I’ve related my experiences for praising students, I find it very important on how we praise students. As teachers, praise is not something you give away easily, it should be genuine and sincere to make students feel proud that they achieved something and allow them to continue that good behaviour. When we reprimand or criticise students for disruptive behaviour, we should find ways to increase our praise to reprimand ratio through BSP. Not all students are the same, some can be quiet, some can be noisy and some just don’t know. They all have different needs and expectations from their teacher, it is up to the teacher have enough knowledge in praising students and to build a positive environment for students to grow. As teachers, it should feel normal and natural to praise students, so that they can exhibit positive qualities and motivate them to grow through academically and improve their social behaviour.   Bibliography American Psychology Association n.d, Using Praise to Enhance Student Resilience and Learning Outcomes, viewed 7 March 2020, < https://www.apa.org/education/k12/using-praise> Brophy, J. 1981, ‘Teacher praise: A functional analysis’, Review of Educational Research, vol. 51, no. 1, pp. 5–32 Dweck, C.S. 2007, ‘The Perils and Promises of Praise’, Educational Leadership, Early Intervention at Every Age, vol. 65, no. 2, pp. 34-39 Dufrene, B. A., Lestremau, L., & Zoder Martell, K. 2014, ‘Direct behavioral consultation: Effects on teachers’ praise and student disruptive behavior’, Psychology in the Schools, vol. 51, no. 6, pp. 567-580 Gable, R. A., Hester, P. H., Rock, M. L., & Hughes, K. G. 2009, ‘Back to Basics: Rules, Praise, Ignoring, and Reprimands Revisited’, Intervention in School and Clinic, vol. 44, no.4, pp. 195–205 Hodgman, M.R. 2015, ‘Student Praise in the Modern Classroom: The Use of Praise Notes as a Productive Motivational Tool’, Macrothink Institute, Journal of Education and Training, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 41-47 Pisacreta, J., Tincani, M., Connell, J., Axelrod, S. 2011, ‘Increasing Teachers' Use of a 1:1 Praise-to-Behavior Correction Ratio to Decrease Student Disruption in General Education Classrooms’, Behavioral Interventions, vol. 26, no. 4, pp. 243-260