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How to Give Effective Praise


While giving praise to students of any age seems like an overwhelmingly positive thing, it is important that we know the best practices to effectively give praise, or it can actually backfire. Building confidence and showing an appreciation of a student’s efforts is a huge part of steady progress. With all this in mind, here are seven key qualities of effective praise.

Praise is effective if it is…

1. Perceived as sincere, earned, and truthful

Over-the-top praise can actually cause a decrease in effort among students. Students can tell when praise is accurate and genuine.

2. Specific

Be as specific and concrete as possible, naming the behavior that you saw that you liked.

3. Not directive

Here’s an example of ineffective, directive praise: “Good writing! Write that legibly every day.”

Here’s a better example: “I appreciate that you took the time to write so legibly.”

4. Focused on process, not ability

Here’s an example of ability-focused praise that cultivates a fixed mindset: “Great job on your test! You’re so smart!”

Here’s an example of process-focused praise that promotes a growth mindset: “Great job on your test! Your hard work developing a more efficient note-taking technique led to a much better absorption of the material!”

5. Immediate

Praise is most effective if it happens right after the behavior, not a week later.

6. Unexpected

If you repeat the same routine phrases of praise, it starts to become predictable and not feel as sincere.

7. Crafted with its audience in mind

While all kids need praise, some prefer public (e.g. in front of parents or teachers) or private praise (i.e. telling them one on one that you appreciated that they used a strategy you recommended on their homework). Younger students tend to prefer public praise, where as older students tend to prefer private praise, but this can depend on the individual person.


Girl biting pencil


If you’re interested in learning more, here are a couple of helpful links:

Making Sure Your Praise is Effective

Teacher Praise: An Effective Tool to Motivate Students

At AJ, we find that 1-on-1 tutoring is a great way to apply targeted and personalized coaching to build confidence in school and on exams. Our educators excel at helping students who need support developing study skills habits, and you can read more about our approach here.


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