Featured Resource: The Power of Positive Regard

Raylene Olinger

Each month, SEED Innovation Coaches will choose a resource from the PD Market to highlight as a Featured Resource. Throughout that month, you will have opportunities to participate in interactive activities and earn additional recertification contact hours. During the month of July, Innovation Coach Raylene Olinger explores ideas around Positive Regard and its impact on interactions within the classroom, and invites educators to do the same as they begin to think about the possibilities of a new school year.


This month’s issue of Educational Leadership contains an article called The Power of Positive Regard.  In the article, author Jeffrey Benson  reminds us that being recognized by a respected adult can be a life-changing experience for some of our students.  While most of us probably agree that delivering false praise to our students is unnecessary, and ultimately harmful, the idea of positive regard is that students should be recognized each day for who they are, as genuine appreciation for the person they are becoming.  Benson states, “... I believe offering praise that's not based on achievement—praise that communicates each person's unassailable right to a unique place in our human community—is important. For many students, such heartfelt and spontaneous praise is invaluable.”

In the article, Benson outlines the origins of the term, Unconditional Positive Regard.  He makes the case that in our quest for high levels of student achievement, students still need to hear words of affirmation simply for the person they are, not because of their level of achievement.  Though he mentions the work of Carol Dweck in fostering a growth mindset in our children and students, I believe that many of us would find a contradiction here. In the days since first reading this article I have pondered whether there is a contradiction.  While Dweck would say that we should be careful to apply labels to children that would imply a fixed mindset, she also is quoted as saying in a recent article,Teachers, Parents Often Misuse Growth Mindset Research, Carol Dweck Says that we have misinterpreted her message when we simply praise students for effort.   I believe that careful thought into our interactions with students would help us guide interactions that show them positive regard and help them understand the power of believing that they can grow and achieve.  The idea that students need to feel a degree of belonging and acceptance is not new; love and belonging fall within Maslow’s Hierarchy.  What I think deserves some attention and intention, is how our interactions can be crafted to result in strong relationships, high levels of motivation and expectation for students, as well as having students share the belief that the process of learning is not always linear and may require different attempts and ways of working.


What philosophy frames your interactions with the students in your classroom?  Are there things about your interactions that you believe could be changed so that a stronger relationship with students, or a higher level of motivation would result?


Read the article linked above, a blog post by Don Ledingham, Unconditional Positive Regard: the heart of teaching and listen to Rita Pierson’s TED Talk, Every Kid Needs a Champion.  I would also reference the article linked above in US News about Carol Dweck’s work. Think about how these resources fit with the idea of positive regard, and your philosophy or manner of interacting with students.

Share your thinking:

I would invite you to share your thoughts in the comment section of this post.  

  • Did your thinking change with regard to the importance of positive regard?
  • Do you think the idea of positive regard contradicts the idea of fostering a growth mindset?
  • How will you intentionally foster a growth mindset in students, give them critical feedback that drives learning forward, all while showing value for the person they are and are becoming?