How to Manage Student Emotions When Giving Feedback

 In Feedback

If you think about feedback and student emotions together, test anxiety might come to mind. Most teachers, parents, and students are familiar with the apprehension that builds up to an assessment, but emotions play a much larger role in learning. The student’s anxiety about upcoming feedback on any classroom activity can affect the end result of the assignment.

How are feedback and student emotions related?

Emotions like anger, shame, hopelessness and anxiety all reduce intrinsic motivation, and result in reduced learning. Enjoyment, hope, pride, and relief have higher motivation and better learning outcomes. When students are excited about their learning activities, the positive emotions make students open and receptive to feedback (Pekrun, et al, 2002). Teachers need to find ways to make lessons engaging and relative to students. For example, instead of doing repetitive math problems, a teacher could plan a virtual shopping excursion or field trip, or use other real world math examples to encourage students about math.

What else affects student emotions and learning?

Students are also coming into the classroom with outside stressors, which can disrupt both learning and behavior. Emotions related to family life, illnesses, neighborhood violence, etc can play out in the classroom in negative ways. A student that is already weighed down with negative emotions from outside of school might further dread feedback from teachers. Teachers should learn about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and how they affect students in the classroom.

What can teachers do to improve feedback and manage student emotions?

The best thing a teacher can do to redirect student emotions is to get to know each student. Building relationships with students and earning their trust ensures that any feedback will be listened to and applied. (Varlander, 2008). Teachers can make a feedback sandwich, starting and ending with positive feedback, with the negative in the middle. Students need to know both the good and the bad; what they are doing correct, and also how they can improve. If teachers understand student’s fears and anxieties about learning, grades,and feedback, they can change the conversation to one of growth mindset. Mistakes do not mean the student is a failure, but should be seen as learning opportunities and places the student can still grow. Creating a culture of learning from errors helps students be in charge of their own education, and makes the learning process more enjoyable (Pekrun, et al, 2002).


Pekrun, R., Goetz, T., Titz, W., & Perry, R. (2002). Academic Emotions in Students’ Self-Regulated Learning and Achievement: A Program of Qualitative and Quantitative Research. Educational Psychologist, 37(2), 91-105.

Värlander, S. (2008). The role of students’ emotions in formal feedback situations. Teaching In Higher Education, 13(2), 145-156.


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