Praise in the classroom

I’ve been reading and thinking a lot of the role of praise and recognition as a performance enhancer in the workplace and in the classroom.

Here’s a little instrunctional strategy nugget I happened upon when grading the Unit 3 project in CS114 – Academic Strategies for the IT Professional.  The project was to take an everyday, real experience (from home or work life) and apply the four steps of the scientific method to that experience.

As I was grading, I was struck by how varied and interesting the topics were.  I jotted down a list of the topics as I was grading.

When I emailed the class that I had finished the grading cycle for Unit 3, I included the topic list in the email.  Here’s what I wrote:

Hi All,

Just wanted to give you all an update about grading.  I completed up through Unit 3.  So if you have questions or are behind and haven’t contacted me, please email me at, as a group I wanted to give general feedback on the Unit 3 project.  WOW!  I was very pleased with the quality of the work, the seriousness of approach, and the fun that many seemed to have with it.  In some ways, I felt like I “threw down the gauntlet” and you guys rose to the challenge.

It was a very cool experience grading the projects too!  Here are some of the topics you all covered:

– vacuum cleaners
– training German Shepherds
– balancing the family checkbook
– faulty power cords
– chef equipment failure
– fuel pumps
– 4 year olds and door/window alarms
– plantation shutters
– dishwashers
– free running and doing the perfect flip
– connect to the network at work
– Mr. Kvetch’s touchpad
– sippy cups and 16 month olds
– teenagers loading dishwashers
– home networking
– time management and online learning

Quite a list, and a lot of fun to read!

Keep up the good work!


Here was an email from one of my students:

Sent: Wed 8/22/2007 10:38 AM
To: Will DeBock
Subject: Re: Grading update.

Thank you for the email. But I must admit, my confidence is crushed! You didn’t mention my subject on the list. Just kidding. Really, thanks for showing that you do care.



Hi Nate,

What an oversight!  The story about syringes and the mis-labeled medicine would have been perfect on that list!

I think my note-taking discpline was starting to wane as I was grading into the night!  🙂

Seriously, thanks for the feedback.  Keeps me going!


What an easy way to show that you care as a professor and to give praise to a group while keeping it real and concrete!


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