I was reading through my backlog of education-related blogs today and came across what I thought was a good post over at Assistive Principles that was about (among other things) the consequences of praise (or at least the over use/misuse of praise). According to the author of the post:
...[students] feel they deserve high praise and accolades for ordinary, mundane things.
...It's now politically correct to praise failure; how could they understand [achievement] in a time where even the losing teams get prizes?
...that self-esteem-motivated praise ends up devaluing ALL praise, and praise can be a powerful tool when used properly.
This got me thinking about the Pygmalian Effect and the role of expectations in the entire process. We have to have clear, realistic expectations for our students AND create the environment where students internalize and believe in these expectations. I'm sure that the judicious use of praise plays a role in here somewhere. It really got me to thinking about how I set expectations for my students and how other teachers do the same thing. We do this, right? The author ends the post with a touching story that reminds us that all students come to us from different places and we need to know the person in order to determine what praise to apply and when to apply it.
We motivate some kids to get to college; we motivate others just to get to tomorrow. Some of these kids get praised for little things because it's all they get a chance to do. Not all of them, and certainly not some of them . . . but a few--a very specific few--deserve the pat on the back for trying.
As a teacher, I'll try to be more conscious about setting expectations and applying praise at it relates to those expectations and to the particular student to whom the praise is intended.