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Praise: Does it motivate or spoil students?

Opinions about the praise a teacher should give students and the effectiveness of this in enhancing their behaviour and their academic performance are controversial.

Various research, distinguish two types of praise: Non target praise and target praise. Each one of them serves a different kind of progress for students.

Specifically, not target praise is a general praise that can be applied to various students’ behavioural interactions. In this case students do not have a clear view of the subjects they are good at, so we could say that this praise-method is not so effective for their academic development. However, students make all – out efforts to increase the number of times that they are praised and it can mobilizes their enthusiasm for learning. We should note that this type of praise can also lead to a greater sense of trust among students and teacher.

On the other hand, target praise is also called academic praise and  many researchers claim that it requires more skills! The reason why target praise it is considered to be more difficult is because it forms a thin line between effective and ineffective feedback for students. For example praise like: “You worked really hard on your math test. Your arithmetic skills has improved a lot since the last assignment, and I can see your dedication to this subject’’ can be an effective praise because highlights the effort, improvement, and dedication of the student. It also recognizes their hard work and encourages them to continue making progress. Conversely, praises like: ‘’ You are so smart’’, may make the student feel pressure to maintain an image of being “smart” rather than focusing on effort and growth. In few words, targeted praise should emphasizes the students’ learning process rather than their abilities.

Consequently, students’ subjective perceptions of themselves are currently confused, and if teachers give them too much praise, they may misunderstand their abilities. Praise can be an important tool in learning by reinforcing desirable behaviours and greater academic outcomes without spoiling students, as long as it is always prudent, relevant and genuine.

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