Opinion Blog

Ask a Psychologist

Helping Students Thrive Now

Angela Duckworth and other behavioral-science experts offer advice to teachers based on scientific research. To submit questions, use this form or #helpstudentsthrive. Read more from this blog.

Student Well-Being Opinion

There Is a Better Way for Students to Ask for Feedback

Psychologist Adam Grant shares a simple shift that can make a big difference
By Adam Grant — February 14, 2024 1 min read
What's the best way to find out how you can improve?
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

What’s the best way to find out how you can improve?

Some methods can be more effective than others. Here’s an excerpt from my new book Hidden Potential: The Science of Achieving Greater Things, which I published recently at Character Lab as a Tip of the Week:

The message from my body came through loud and clear: You do not belong here. Between the sweat drenching my shirt and the butterflies in my stomach, I had no business being onstage.

As a graduate student, I was determined to get over my fear of public speaking, so I volunteered to give a series of guest lectures in my friends’ undergraduate classes. I needed their input to learn. But when I asked those friends for feedback afterward, they came back with vague compliments. Interesting content. Enthusiastic delivery.

When they have helpful input, people are often reluctant to share it. We even hesitate to tell friends they have food in their teeth.

Instead of seeking feedback, you’re better off asking for advice. Feedback tends to focus on how well you did last time. Advice shifts attention to how you can do better next time. In experiments, that simple shift is enough to elicit more specific suggestions and more constructive input.

People sometimes worry about coming across as insecure, but seeking advice doesn’t reveal a lack of confidence. It reflects respect for another person’s competence. When you seek their guidance, people judge you as more capable. You’re a genius! You knew to come to me!

Don’t ask how you did yesterday. That invites people to act like cheerleaders celebrating your best self or critics attacking your worst self.

Do ask how you can improve tomorrow. That motivates people to become coaches who see your hidden potential and help you become a better version of yourself. And model effective coaching to young people by being forthcoming in what you say and respectful in how you say it. Show them how easy it is to hear a hard truth from someone who believes in their potential and cares about their success.

The opinions expressed in Ask a Psychologist: Helping Students Thrive Now are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Your Questions on the Science of Reading, Answered
Dive into the Science of Reading with K-12 leaders. Discover strategies, policy insights, and more in our webinar.
Content provided by Otus
Mathematics Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Breaking the Cycle: How Districts are Turning around Dismal Math Scores
Math myth: Students just aren't good at it? Join us & learn how districts are boosting math scores.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Achievement Webinar
How To Tackle The Biggest Hurdles To Effective Tutoring
Learn how districts overcome the three biggest challenges to implementing high-impact tutoring with fidelity: time, talent, and funding.
Content provided by Saga Education

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Student Well-Being SEL Could Move Into School Sports. What That Might Look Like
Massachusetts is considering a bill to establish guidelines on how school athletics incorporate SEL.
5 min read
A middle school football team practices Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022, in Oklahoma City.
A middle school football team practices in Oklahoma City in 2022.
Sue Ogrocki/AP
Student Well-Being Q&A Putting the Freak-out Over Social Media and Kids' Mental Health in Historical Context
Is it another in a long line of technology-induced moral panics, or something different?
3 min read
Vector illustration of 30 items and devices converging into a single smart device. Your contemporary tablet is filled with a rich history, containing ways to record and view video, listen to music, calculate numbers, communicate with others, pay for things, and on and on.
DigitalVision Vectors
Student Well-Being Opinion Stop Saying 'These Kids Don't Care About School’
This damaging myth creates a barrier between educators and students and fails to address the root causes of student disengagement.
Laurie Putnam
4 min read
Illustration of a group of young people with backpacks standing in row rear view, on an erased whiteboard surface.
Education Week + iStock/Getty Images
Student Well-Being What the Research Says Inconsistent Sleep Patterns in High School Linked to Academic Struggles
New study finds adolescents' varied sleep habits can hurt learning.
3 min read
Stylized illustration of an alarm clock over a background which is split in half, with one half being nighttime and one half being daytime.
Vanessa Solis/Education Week via Canva