How to Empower Students with One Simple Phrase (that can boost student effort by 40%)

By AJ Juliani, 16 comments

Daniel Coyle, the author of The Talent Code, recently looked at a study on feedback from teachers. This study showed that one simple phrase could boost student effort by 40%. I was shocked when I read this, but in the back of my mind I was already guessing what the phrase would be…and I was right on the money. See for yourself:

A team of psychologists from Stanford, Yale, Columbia, and elsewhere recently set out to explore the question: What’s the secret of great feedback?. They had middle-school teachers assign an essay-writing assignment to their students, after which students were given different types of teacher feedback.

To their surprise, researchers discovered that there was one particular type of teacher feedback that improved student effort and performance so much that they deemed it “magical.” Students who received this feedback chose to revise their paper far more often that students who did not (a 40 percent increase among white students; 320 percent boost among black students) and improved their performance significantly. (See the study here.)

What was the magical feedback? Just one phrase:

I’m giving you these comments because I have very high expectations and I know that you can reach them.

That’s it. Just 19 words. But they’re powerful because they are not really feedback. They’re a signal that creates something more powerful: a sense of belonging and connection.

As a teacher, my students always responded when learning was presented as a challenge. Specifically, a challenge that I “expected” they would reach. This phrase (and the effect of 40% more effort) is so important.

Are we teaching pre-service teachers about simple things like this? Are we focusing professional development on boosting student-teacher relationships?

Are we focusing professional development on boosting student-teacher relationships?

When we talk about moving away from compliance-based education to one where students have voice and choice, it still matters what the teacher is doing and saying in every class.

Relationships are one of the most impactful ways to empower students to pursue their own passions, interests, and futures.

But, in order to be empowered, they must first believe in their abilities to pursue those dreams.

With one simple phrase, we can continually build the mindset that they can do anything, and the possibilities are endless.

How to Empower Students with One Simple Phrase

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