Praise, Criticism and Advice in Educational Settings: A Social Psychological Investigation.

Yvonne Skipper

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


This thesis studied children’s and students’ responses to different forms of praise, criticism and encouragement. Specifically, it examined responses to person (e.g., “you are clever”) and process feedback (e.g., “you worked hard”) compared to objective performance feedback (e.g., “you scored 10/10”). Whilst results suggested that objective and process feedback yielded the best outcomes for learners, no forms of praise or criticism protected learners from repeated failures. However, it was found that encouragement feedback led learners to respond more adaptively to repeated failure.
The thesis also examined how teachers’ choice of feedback is influenced by their perceptions of the aims of feedback. Here, results suggested that whilst teachers generally opted to give learners process feedback, they were not necessarily aware of the implicit messages that different forms of feedback delivered. They also felt that their feedback led to more positive outcomes than were actually experienced by learners.
The research above was also conducted with Chinese samples to examine potential cross-cultural differences. Results suggested that praise had less impact on Chinese than English children. In addition, Chinese teachers delivered praise differently to their English counterparts, preferring both person and process feedback, especially after successes. However, like English teachers, Chinese teachers were relatively unaware of the implicit messages they delivered with their feedback.
Finally, learners’ responses to feedback from an institution in the form of the Kent Test were examined. Results suggested that this secondary school transfer system led to more negative outcomes for children, such as lower self-esteem compared to children in the county of Surrey where the test does not exist.
Overall, this thesis highlights the importance of critically reflecting on feedback to ensure that both explicit feedback (e.g., the type of praise) and implicit feedback (e.g., messages from the education system) lead to the best possible outcomes for learners.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2011

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