We all like to be recognized for a job well done. However, research indicates that teachers and parents can increase youngsters’ motivation by focusing their praise on students’ efforts and improvements rather than on outcomes alone.
In our book, Five Big Ideas for Effective Teaching: Connecting, Mind Brain, and Education Research to Classroom Practice, Marcus Conyers and I give examples of what teachers can say to students to keep the focus on hard work and effort rather than on results alone:
- “All that effort you put into your homework has really made a difference—look how much your grade improved on this week’s quiz.”
- “I like how you looked up the definition yourself rather than just asking what the word means.”
- “If you work on your note-taking skills, you will have better materials to use when studying for the next test.”
Students who encounter failure on a test or assignment will do better next time if they don’t get discouraged by a perceived lack of ability or intelligence on their part. If they understand the correlation between hard work and achievement, they are more likely to put greater effort into achieving their academic goals. Teachers who encourage students by praising effort can help promote persistence and sticktoitiveness that ultimately leads to academic success.