You might have heard the saying, “words have power.” It’s a bit of a cliche, but the sentiment rings true, particularly with positive feedback and compliments. Nearly everyone enjoys being praised; external acknowledgment of our accomplishments can help raise our self esteem and affirm our value. Positive feedback for students is also a vital way to increase learning and foster confidence.

Researchers at the Brigham Young University School of Education found that teachers who use positivity and praise in school have students with higher levels of productivity and learning performance. In fact, students who receive more positive feedback exhibit 20%-30% more focus in the classroom than students who are not praised! Effective feedback is a powerful way to encourage students and reinforce positive behavior.

A chalkboard with the words "Yes, you can !!!" written on it. Positive encouragement like this can help your students achieve their learning goals.

But, effectively utilizing positive feedback in the classroom goes beyond simply handing out stickers or telling your students they’ve done a good job. Some education researchers even go as far as to say that the right kind of praise can inspire students to learn, while the wrong kind of praise harms students and encourages poor learning behavior. So, exactly how should you go about praising your students? Read on to learn effective, research-backed methods to harness the power of positive feedback in your classroom and help your students become the best learners they can be!

Be Specific, and Try Your Hand at Descriptive Positive Feedback For Students

General classroom praise is a good way to maintain a positive teaching environment, but in order to truly take advantage of the positive effects of praise, try getting specific! Praising a student or group of students for specific behavior and accomplishments is more meaningful and encouraging than a generic “Good job.”


Falling in line with being specific in your feedback, descriptive praise involves praising your students through a description of their work. If you like the quote a student chose in their essay or the way a student solved a math problem, tell them! Describing the specific action that you are praising offers students valuable and effective feedback on their performance, which can help to reinforce the successful behavior you are praising.

Offer Positive Feedback For Students on the Process, Not the Outcome

While many of us might be inclined to praise a final product, acknowledging the hard work and effort that went into the outcome can be more valuable for many students. Researchers in Australia found that younger students appreciate positive feedback for their ability to complete a project, while older students prefer praise centered around their hard work. This kind of feedback may involve noting a student’s improvement in class or commending a student on research done for a project.


By focusing your praise on work ethic, you can avoid praising students for innate or personality-based qualities. When students are praised for their intrinsic qualities, such as intelligence, they begin to believe that success is dependent on these traits, rather than hard work.  A study done by researchers at Columbia University found that students who receive positive feedback on their hard work are more motivated, while those who are praised for their intelligence are less persistent when facing difficult tasks and less likely to believe in their ability to grow as learners.

Know Your Students

As a teacher, you probably have some knowledge of your students’ personalities and comfort levels. Some students may adore public, outspoken positive feedback given in front of the entire class, while others may prefer a private, one-on-one conversation that provides positive feedback. If you’re unsure which your students prefer, you can always ask. Generally speaking, though, research shows that younger students tend to enjoy public positive feedback more than adolescents, and older students prefer private praise paired with a reward. Knowing your students’ preferred communication style can help ensure that your feedback is serving their needs.

Educators at Waterford School District provide specific positive feedback to students through the insights they get from online assessments in Edulastic.
Educators at Waterford School District provide specific feedback to students through the insights they get from online assessments in Edulastic.

Don’t Overdo It

It’s only natural to get excited when your students are doing exceptional work, but overly effusive praise may not be the best route to help your students reach their learning goals. In fact, complimenting your students with exaggerated positive feedback may actually be counterintuitive. Excessive praise — such as telling your students they are the best class you’ve ever had — can set unrealistically high expectations, causing stress and anxiety. Teachers are better off using specific and descriptive praise, rather than extreme hyperboles.

Applying Positive Feedback For Students In Your Classroom

Now that you’ve learned the best practices for using positive feedback with your students, you can begin to incorporate it into your classroom! Since your feedback should be descriptive and specific, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to praising your students. Using tools to help monitor your students’ skills and improvement, can assist you in guiding instruction and providing feedback. With assessment and lesson tools like Edulastic, you can enter student feedback on individual questions or an overall assignment straight from the Live Class Board.

One general model of positive communication involves providing feedback on a specific piece of work your student has done and commenting on a positive quality shown through this work. For example, if a student has improved their math homework scores throughout the school year, you can tell them, “I’ve noticed some strong improvement in your assignment scores. I’ve been so impressed with your hard work and motivation.” This approach both commends a student on the process of their work while being descriptive and avoiding personal praise on an intrinsic quality.

Create a Positive Classroom Atmosphere

Incorporating positive feedback into your classroom is an excellent way to help your motivated students learn while also creating a positive class atmosphere! Specific positive feedback that focuses on the process and caters to individual students’ needs can help your students feel appreciated and ready to tackle challenges. A few kind words from a teacher can help grow a student’s confidence in their ability to learn and succeed, not only in the classroom, but throughout the rest of their life.

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