How do you give feedback that challenges students to do and be their best while also boosting, not undermining, their self-confidence and motivation? Experienced teachers have lots of strategies that they use. But underneath all the techniques lies a critical factor: The relational ways teachers interact with students.

Several years ago, a team of researchers led by David Scott Yeager conducted an experiment in a middle school that highlighted the importance of trust. First, the social studies teachers assigned students to write an essay about a personal hero. When they turned it in, the teachers gave their regular, high-quality feedback.

Then the researchers randomly placed one of two notes (written by the teacher) on each essay. One gave an encouraging message: “I’m giving you these comments because I have very high expectations, and I know that you can reach them.” The other had a neutral message: “I’m giving you these comments so that you’ll have feedback on your paper.”

The essays were then given back to students, and they were given the option of revising their essay based on the feedback. Students who received the “high expectations” note were significantly more likely to revise their essays than those who received the neutral note. (And remember, the notes were randomly assigned.)

This experiment underscored the importance of high trust and expectations in teacher-student relationships as foundational to how students receive feedback. That’s the focus of this month’s research highlights, tools, and activities. Click the image to download it all:


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