Wise Feedback of High Expectations

teacher and student

As a teacher, you have power to make a difference in the lives of your students! As a result of their time with you, they will develop thoughts and feelings about school, about learning, and about themselves.

Your belief in their ability to achieve success is, for some students, a primary lifeline to their belief in themselves. Through your words and actions, your expectations, and your communication to students that you believe they can MEET those expectations, can help set the stage for that success to take root and thrive.

Beliefs and Expectations

Whether conscious of it or not, you as teacher are communicating your expectations to your students all day long. Your own thoughts guide this communication, albeit ever so subtly sometimes. Your verbal and non-verbal feedback to students it important!

Wise Feedback

In MTSS, “Wise Feedback” as a proactive classroom management strategy means communicating your high expectations in a meaningful way so the student is aware of your high expectations and believes he or she can reach them. 


5 ways you can incorporate wise feedback effectively, starting today:

1. Show you believe in them

  • During quiet work time you notice a student off-task. You might want to take a moment to have a chat with him/her, saying something like, “I noticed you aren’t working on your assignment, (name). The reason I sat here to talk to you about it is because I have high expectations for my students and I know you’re just the type of student who is capable of meeting them. I believe you can do this…” and then ask if they need help getting started.
  • Reward effort as well as performance so that students see the link between effort and success.

2. Be respectful

  • Make an effort to look for the good, not just the mistakes. This will encourage a growth-mindset-oriented classroom where kids are not afraid of making errors, but know they can (and still have opportunities to) learn from them.
  • Try using “I Statements” when commenting on work:
    • During a first draft of a writing assignment you notice a student missing the mark on their answer. Instead of saying, “you didn’t explain the connection between __ and __.”, try saying, “I’m not understanding how ___ and ___ are tied together.”
  • Use strategies like “My Favorite No“, tailoring it to suit your subject area.

3. Make your feedback timely

  • Effective feedback is relatively immediate and often, especially when learning. Think of when you learned how to ride a bike or drive a car – making adjustments and corrections if mom or dad waited a couple of weeks before letting you know how you were doing wouldn’t quite be an optimal learning scenario, would it? Thankfully for you (and others on the road) their feedback was probably very immediate and often!
  • If you aren’t able to give feedback in a timely manner for assignments that have been turned in, remember that feedback is not always written.
    • Try “waitressing”: Circulate to a few students per day and just have a 30-second chat with them at their tables.
    • Use an extension like Screencastify to record your screen with your voice behind it, while you offer feedback on their writing.

4. Use specifics

  • Avoid sweeping generalizations. Instead give students a specific adjustment they can make for a future change that should be made.
  • Rather than focus on every small error, ask yourself, “If this student could only change one thing for next time, which change would help make the most significant improvement?” When you can find that one thing, that’s good feedback for the student.

5. Make it actionable

  • Feedback in the classroom is more than just making suggestions. After all, it takes you time to assess the task or product, then decide how you will convey your feedback to the student.
    • Emphasize what can be done for NEXT time (or tomorrow’s re-write, or next week’s final draft) over what they did wrong THIS time. This conveys there is action to be taken.
    • If it isn’t actionable, it’s just something “nice to know”.

Other resources:

Formative assessment and self‐regulated learning: a model and seven principles of good feedback practice
Do students value feedback? Student perceptions of tutors’ written responses
Seven keys to effective feedback
5 Research-Based Tips for Providing Students with Meaningful Feedback

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