Praise is generally recognized as an empirically-supported approach to improving student behavior (Simonsen, Fairbanks, Briesch, Myers, & Sugai, 2008); however, in spite of the research evidence, praise is often under-utilized in classrooms (Floress & Jenkins, 2015; Gable, Hendrickson, Shores, & Young, 1983; Sutherland, Wehby, & Copeland, 2000) highlighting the research to practice gap. Why don’t teachers implement praise more often and more consistently? Shernoff and colleagues (2020) attempted to answer this question. In this study, they recruited 41 teachers who identified praise as a professional development goal to participate in a coaching program with the goal of increasing praise. After the study was completed, the teachers were asked about facilitators (helpful factors) and barriers (obstacles) to using praise. During the study, the teachers slowly increased the frequency and quality of praise over a three-month period. This suggests that it takes time to make practice changes and it may be more complex to implement praise than is generally considered. The teachers identified a number of facilitators to using praise including feedback to students without having to criticize them, positive student reactions, and deliberate planning and reminders (planning how to use praise in the context of a specific lesson). Teachers also identified barriers to using praise including it interferes with instruction, conflicts with education, training and beliefs, and the context dependent nature of praise. Using praise in classrooms is an innovation when there is initially a very low level. From an implementation science perspective, the process leading to adoption can be complex and influenced by factors that are unrelated to the intervention. For example, if an innovation conflicts with a teacher’s education, training, and beliefs, then the innovation will likely be met with resistance. One way to reduce the resistance to the innovation is to have someone that is credible to the teacher champion the intervention rather than outside consultants, trainers, or researchers. Often the most credible person to a teacher is another teacher. This highlights that introducing interventions that are seemingly simple is not a simple process.
Citation: Shernoff, E. S., Lekwa, A. L., Reddy, L. A., & Davis, W. (2020). Teachers’ use and beliefs about praise: A mixed-methods study. School Psychology Review, 49(3), 256-274.
- Floress, M. T., & Jenkins, L. N. (2015). A preliminary investigation of kindergarten teachers’ use of praise in general education classrooms. Preventing School Failure: Alternative Education for Children and Youth, 59(4), 253–262. doi:10.1177/0198742917709472.
- Gable, R. A., Hendrickson, J. M., Shores, R. E., & Young, C. C. (1983). Teacher-handicapped child classroom interactions. Teacher Education and Special Education: The Journal of the Teacher Education Division of the Council for Exceptional Children, 6(2), 88–95. doi:10.1177/019874299301800405.
- Simonsen, B., Fairbanks, S., Briesch, A., Myers, D., & Sugai, G. (2008). Evidence-based practices in classroom management: Considerations for research to practice. Education and Treatment of Children, 3, 351–380. doi:10.1353/etc.0.0007.
- Sutherland, K. S., Wehby, J. H., & Copeland, S. R. (2000). Effect of varying rates of behavior-specific praise on the ontask behavior of students with EBD. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 8(1), 2–8. doi:10.1177/ 106342660000800101.