Praise not punish to improve child behaviour

To improve classroom environments, teachers should focus on praising children for positive behaviour, rather than telling them off for being disruptive, according to a study published in Educational Psychology (January). Brigham Young University, Utah researchers spent three years observing 2,536 students, across three US states, from kindergarten through to class VI (5-12 years). They found that children focused up to 20-30 percent more on tasks when teachers praised rather than reprimanded them. In short, the more teachers praised and the less they scolded, the greater the attention students paid to teachers and assigned classroom tasks.

“Everyone values being praised and recognised for endeavour — it hugely stimulates children’s self-esteem and confidence. Also from a behavioural perspective, behaviour that is reinforced tends to improve. So if teachers praise students for good behaviour — paying attention, asking appropriately for assistance, etc, it stands to reason this positive behaviour will increase, and learning will improve,” says Dr. Paul Caldarella, lead researcher and professor at the David O. McKay School of Education, Brigham Young University.

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