Shhh…don’t tell

Posted on 06 Nov 2006 in Classroom Behavior, Student Behavior | Comments Off on Shhh…don’t tell

Do you think that teachers praise students TOO much? According to a recent article, there are some wolves in sheep’s clothing instructing teachers to stop praising kids and telling when they’re doing something right!


The advice from the wolves, “shhh…don’t tell” the kids they’re doing well, don’t reward or reinforce them for completing school work, and don’t praise them when they’ve succeeded with a project. The danger of this is that kids will not learn to be “intrinsically motivated” and the reward punishes them by harming their future development.

Wow! I don’t know if I was more shocked by these statements or the fact that some people are making a lot of money by selling books and giving speeches about this theory.

The truth is easy to come by. Praising and reinforcing students let’s students know that they are on the right track and doing well. In fact, numerous studies (Alber & Heward, 2000; Maag, 2001; Cameron & Pierce, 2002) have pointed out that the most effective teachers are those who provide students with frequent feedback and praise on their performance. One study by Cameron and other in 2001 looked at 145 experiments and found that rewards had absolutely no detrimental effect on intrinsic motivation. the only problem with teachers praise is that we don’t give students enough of it. Even when teachers are observed, knowing that they are being monitored for reinforcing students, the actual frequency of teacher praise is very low.


One way to motivate students and monitor the feedback and praise that you provide to your class or particular students is to create a token economy system. Tokens can be any item that the class or students can trade for a tangible reward at a later time. Tokens can be checkmarks on the board or a student chart, poker chips, marbles dropped into a jar on the teachers desk, stickers or stamps. These can be traded at a predetermined time and rate (100 tokens = $1.00) for extra time on desired projects, classroom privileges , special activities, etc. As the teacher, you set the value of the reward. For example, reading to younger children (desirable) cost $1.00, whereas taking care of the class pet on Friday (very desirable) costs $5.00.

In my class, every student had a chart and I would give them a checkmark with a green pen (tough to counterfit) everytime that I provided genuine praise or positive verbal feedback. At the end of the day students would sum their charts and see the total tokens they earned and I could see how often I reinforced each student. It was amazing to see how often I failed to fill up some student’s charts. However, with practice I became more consistent with praising and reinforcing my students and became a more effective teacher.

Now it’s your turn. Will you remain silent or will you praise with pride?