Day 18: Practice Giving Positive, Constructive Feedback

“Encourage yourselves daily while it is still today.”

Hebrews 3:13

True servant-leaders build up rather than tear down. They provide positive feedback and constructive criticism with the goal of helping others grow.

Educational psychologists have shown through their research that positive feedback is essential for student growth. Some have said that for every piece of constructive criticism we offer, a student needs to hear four or five positive comments for the criticism to actually be heard.

A large emphasis is place on the research of Carol Dweck in this chapter. You can read more about her research on her website and in her book:

I first came across this research while I worked for an organization called Play Like A Champion Today, which provides workshops to coaches and parents in Catholic sports organizations. They place a heavy emphasis on positive feedback for motivation and provide the “sandwich approach” as the key example of how to do this. I describe this approach in more detail in 31 Days to Becoming a Better Religious Educator (93-94). It would go something like this:

Sample Sandwich Approach

Situation: A student performed poorly on an assignment (such as a test).

Positive Comment: Hi, James, can I talk to you for a minute? Listen, I first wanted to say that you did a great job coming into class today. You sat down and got right to work. That is the kind of focus that this class is all about.

Constructive Criticism: I would also like to talk about your latest assignment. You made some mistakes in the writing portion. Next time, try slowing down and writing more for each response. You may have rushed through this assignment to get it done and that is why you fell short.

Positive Comment: I’ve seen your journal entries, and you write much more during those assignments. Write like that for your next in-class writing assignment, ok? I know you will continue to do better next time. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.

As a part of today’s exercise, complete this sandwich approach worksheet (coming soon) in preparation for a conversation you will have with one of your students.

For another example of the Sandwich Approach, visit “Motivating Children with Positive Feedback.”