Professor Finds a Way to Improve School Community and Collegiality

Study by Paul Caldarella demonstrates value in teacher praise notes.

Paul_Caldarella

Workplace research has shown that productivity and improved outcomes are related to employees’ positivity and job satisfaction. Paul Caldarella, a BYU associate professor with a joint appointment in the Center for the Improvement of Teacher Education and Schooling (CITES) and the Department of Counseling Psychology Special Education (CPSE), has published a study that applies this principle to education. When the environment in the school improves through increased positivity of the teachers, perceptions of teacher relationships and collegiality also improve.

Caldarella, along with primary author Julie Nelson and co-authors Michael Adams and Ryan Shatzer, found that when teachers wrote complimentary notes to each other, ratings of their social relationships and collegiality increased. Thus receiving positive notes increased collegiality and sense of belonging among teachers. Although study results were inconclusive on more extended effects, the compliments may lead to more optimistic, confident attitudes among teachers, thus providing students with better classroom learning environments.

“Research has found that over the last 10 years or so, only about six percent of all school-wide positive behavior support studies were directed at faculty or staff in the school,” Caldarella said. “But the education of the student really starts with the teacher.”

In their study, Caldarella and colleagues evaluated collaborative interactions among teachers of two junior high schools in the Nebo School District. Over an eight-week period, teachers gave handwritten notes of positive feedback to each other. Once completed, the results showed a significantly increased sense of school community and collegiality among the faculty.

“We know that teaching is rewarding but stressful,” Caldarella said. “Receiving praise notes could potentially decrease teachers’ stress and raise their collegiality, which would improve the learning environment of the classroom and provide a better learning opportunity for the students.”

This study is the latest research substantiating the effectiveness of written praise notes in schools. Caldarella and Nelson have published two studies on the subject: “Effects of Peer Praise Notes on Teachers’ Perceptions of School Community and Collegiality,” and “Using Peer Praise Notes to Increase the Social Involvement of Withdrawn Adolescents.”

Contact: Cindy Glad (801) 422-1922

Writer: Andrew Williamson