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Did you praise others in class? If not, it’s time to think again, researchers assert in a new study. The study concluded that paying attention to the actual ratio of praise to blame led to dramatic improvements in performance and grades at work. Experts at Vanderbilt University have come to the same conclusion in previous research on ‘praise ratios’, and recommend’ six compliments every 15 minutes’.
It’s strange to make a chart that encourages language. In most cases, praise is spontaneous and passive, so if you listen to how often you praise students, it may feel too mechanical, or too critical. But for Todd Finley, a professor of English education and former teacher, creating a list of praise was a game-changer, providing him with a structure to “reflect on what students have done or could do” worthy of praise, as well as a way to document interactions to “evenly spread the love.”
In the study, researchers analyzed how often middle school teachers praised their students — “Well done, Andrew, pay attention in class!” They found that the higher the ratio of praise to reprimand, the more likely students were to pay attention and engage in the lesson.
In classrooms with the highest ratio of praise to reprimand, classroom behavior increased by 60 to 70 percent, while disruptive behavior fell by half.
The positive effects of praise were strongly felt by a small group of students with emotional and behavioral disorders. For these students, zero praise and the ratio of praise to reprimand was a full letter grade — up from an average D to a C. Avoiding public reprimands altogether in favor of a more positive, proactive approach had a more significant impact, with these students averaging B’s in class.
‘As students get older, we often just assume that they will become more mature and do what is expected of them,’ said Paul Caldarella, lead author of the study and a professor of education at Brigham Young University. “But they actually still need the same reminders as elementary school children. And for image-seeking teens who are trying to establish their own identity and peer relationships, any kind of negative public comment can make them closed or aggressive. So it’s better to praise in public and correct in private.”