National Collegiate Honors Council


Date of this Version



Honors in Practice, Volume 8.


Copyright © 2012 National Collegiate honors Council


Frequently university students as well as faculty and administrators need to be reminded of Catherine the Great’s advice: we are wise to affirm the good in others. “Knowing how powerful [celebration] is, it is shocking how overlooked it is in most areas of life, especially education” (Clifton 177). Blanchard adds that, while individuals far prefer receiving “one-minute praises over one-minute reprimands,” evaluation practices more frequently find individuals seeking to catch others doing something wrong rather than catching others doing something right (76–85). Although the culture of honors education traditionally promotes and recognizes excellence in student performance through multiple rituals such as postings on Dean’s Lists and induction into academic honor societies, we often neglect affirming quality teaching.

Considerable research has shown that affirmation of good work is essential to productivity. Hackman and Johnson claim that “compliments, celebrations, and other rewards play an important role in effective leadership,” helping create productive communities (106). Thus, withholding recognition of quality teaching is a missed opportunity, for well-placed praise produces positive outcomes and helps preclude the negativity that flows from low morale. Nuhfer suggests, for instance, that student affirmation of teaching heightens an educator’s “self-esteem and enthusiasm [which] are important traits for successful teaching” (21). Smith observes that harboring the attitude that individuals do not need affirmation because they are “only doing their job” or “that is what they are getting paid for” results in low morale and reduced performance level (57). Wheelan notes, “Positive feedback increases cohesion . . . and facilitates group development” (78). Finally, Gardner suggests that “nothing is more vital to the renewal of an organization than the arrangements by which able people are nurtured,” yet he bemoans the reality that organizations [i.e., universities] are more often preoccupied with “running a tight ship” than with developing and praising people (127).