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If you want to see a 30% boost in your students' good behavior, praise them, says new study

Educators recommend a praise to reprimand ratio of 3:1 or 4:1 in order to ensure the best learning outcomes for children.

If you want to see a 30% boost in your students' good behavior, praise them, says new study
Image Source: kali9 / Getty Images

According to a new study published in the journal Educational Psychology, teachers who praise their students rather than punish them are more likely to see good behavior in their students. While prior research has confirmed that praise is the "simplest classroom behavior strategy" a teacher can use, this study is extensive and even makes recommendations on how much praise is just enough. For three years, the team of researchers analyzed teacher interactions with a total of 2,536 students between the ages of five and 12, from kindergarten through to the sixth grade. As it turns out, there is no "tipping point" of praise over a reprimand, CNN reports.



 

Paul Caldarella, a professor in the Brigham Young University's counseling, psychology, and special education department, was the paper's lead author. He said, "As elementary teachers' praise over punishment ratio increases, students' on-task behavior increases as well." He added that the higher the ratio between the two (that is, the more a teacher praised and the less they scolded), the more children were able to focus on all their lessons. Good student behavior and greater focus in the classroom, other research studies show, are linked to better academic and social outcomes for young children.



 

While a teacher's praise is known to have positive benefits on students, the opposite is also true. Teacher reprimands have been discovered to not just predict but also increase student misbehavior as well as an unwillingness to comply with instructions from people in positions of authority. Unfortunately, trends in the use of praise have not really gone up. In actuality, the older students get, the less likely their educators are to use praise in the classroom. In fact, the use of reprimand increases. Nonetheless, it is not likely to expect a teacher to never use reprimand; even the most positive teachers will. Experts believe, however, that keeping reprimand to a minimum works best.



 

Educators typically recommend a praise to reprimand ratio of 3:1 or 4:1. This means that for every reprimand, a teacher must share three to four instances of praise. Caldarella's new study found that there was "no 'tipping point' of praise over reprimand where on-task behavior drastically improved." Notably, educators who provided the most praise saw up to 30 percent more positive student behavior. "Even if teachers praised as much as they reprimanded, students' on-task behavior reached 60%," he explained, "However, if teachers could increase their praise to reprimand ratio to 2:1 or higher, they would see even more improvements in the classroom."



 

He thus suggests that all parents try to seek out educators for their children who offer praise rather than reprimand. This may not always be possible, so the researcher notes that it may prove beneficial to share his study with their children's educators in order to encourage more positive behavior. Caldarella stated, "Behavior that is reinforced tends to increase. So if teachers are praising students for good behavior, such as attending to the teacher, asking for help appropriately, etc., it stands to reason that this behavior will increase, and learning will improve."



 

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