Project Details


Feedback is one of the most potent instruments of instruction; it informs students where to focus their efforts, helps them gauge their progress, challenges them to develop their skills, and confirms their abilities when they succeed. However, the feedback needs to be accurate and valid for those benefits to occur. Research by Kent Harber (Rutgers University Newark) and others suggest that this may not be the case for minority learners. There is a 'positive feedback bias' in the tendency of European-American (White) individuals to provide more praise and less criticism to African American, Latino, and other minority learners than to White learners for work of equal merit. The positive feedback bias appears to be robust and pervasive. It is communicated both in writing and in direct, face-to-face, conversations; it has been displayed by college students, teacher trainees, and public school teachers; and it has been demonstrated in the American West Coast, the Midwest, and the East Coast. The potential costs of such a bias are striking. If feedback is less critical when directed at minorities, it can mislead effort, undermine motivation, and erode trust. If minority students are chronically receiving positively biased feedback, then their ability to advance as learners may be undercut. Perhaps as important, their faith in praise that they have genuinely earned may be compromised. This line of research will assess how the positive feedback bias, and the motives from which it arises, influence the quality of information that Whites supply to minorities. It specifically focuses on the nature of inter-racial communication, the language used to provide functional feedback, and the reasons why the language used may differ as a function of the interracial context of the exchange. By studying how positive feedback is expressed in open-ended communication, this project may reveal how the positive feedback bias affects minority students' learning and different potential remedies for the bias.
Effective start/end date9/1/128/31/14


  • National Science Foundation (National Science Foundation (NSF))


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