Can Your Tone of Voice Change Learning Outcomes?

When teachers gave instructions in a respectful manner—as opposed to being blunt and demanding—high school students scored higher on tests of retention and transfer, a 2015 study found.  Edutopia

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A touch of politeness goes a long way, especially in the teen years as kids are developing a newfound sense of identity and autonomy, research reveals.

High school students who were given clear yet respectful instructions during a multimedia lesson—using phrases like “might” instead of “must,” “we” instead of “you,” and “discover” instead of “memorize”—were not only more engaged but also outperformed their peers who were given more direct instructions. On a follow-up exam, those students scored 20% higher on retention questions and 33% higher on questions that tested their ability to apply what they learned to novel situations.

When instructions are delivered in abrupt, overbearing ways, the researchers say, it’s often perceived as “a personal attack” by teens, requiring them to divert cognitive resources away from learning to deal with their own negative emotional reaction.

Teachers create the weather, the old saying goes: Your tone matters, and for students who place a premium on independence, even minor changes to your language can be a breath of fresh air.

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