I know that feedback and praise is a sore subject for a lot of people. How do I give feedback without hurting people’s feelings? If I give praise, will I ruin their motivation? Will I ruin their motivation if I don’t?

I, for one, think that praise is an important part of any process, ala Carol Dweck’s growth mindset argument. But after reading the Washington Post article Criticizing Praise, I think that my idea of praise and most people’s might be a little different. When I praise people I try to never say “I liked this” or “this was good.” Instead I try to comment on their approach without involving myself, similar to the author of the Literacy Daily article Be a Mirror. I agree with the second article much more, which says that praise can be useful if it is used properly. Conversely, the Washington Post article argues that any praise, no matter how it is given or recieved is manipulative and counterproductive.

My thoughts? Of course praise is manipulative; that’s why people use it, even if they don’t consciously realize it. It’s a huge part of raising and socializing children. How else are you supposed to convince a child that doing their chores is good and throwing food isn’t? Most people rely on a mix of positive and negative reinforcement. So I don’t think that we should do away with praise. As for its usefulness in teaching, that I can see both sides of. Maybe if you praise the student who did well and don’t praise the kid who didn’t, the second one will be discouraged. Maybe if you praise both, it won’t mean anything to either. But maybe if you praise the good while encouraging the bad to do better, the child who didn’t do as well will be motivated to work harder.


Image: Stock photo of “Good Job.” Source: Pixabay

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