I address the issue of praise each semester with my methods students. I usually use questions (surprising, I know) to encourage the preservice teachers to consider praise from a different perspective.
Why do we praise kids?
Many people say they want to help kids build self confidence. We want students to feel good about themselves.
What does it mean to be self-confident?
I encourage the reader to think about this question.
In what way might external validation in the form of praise undermine self-confidence?
This is where many of the preservice teachers kind of say, “huh?”. Rightfully so. I’m not saying praising kids will cause them to be less self-confident, but that what we really want for kids is to have internal confidence and not rely on the praise of others to maintain their sense of self worth.
When thinking about typical praise, I hear “Great job!” or “That’s right!” or “way to go!”. Kids very quickly figure out how meaningless this praise is. Those that don’t come to rely on the mini-treats like a salivating dog.
If we want kids to learn the cause of the moon phases we know that simply telling them about the phases is ineffective. If we want kids to modify their self image, why would we think simply telling them “good job” would suffice?