Engineer Inclusion

Sticky Feedback!

Throughout our lifetime, we get tons of feedback, and the feedback we receive affects our motivation. Feedback and support from others is a source of our self-efficacy — the belief we have in ourselves to accomplish a task.

Using a simple formula, we can adjust our feedback to be a super-booster for self-efficacy in others, through what I call, “Sticky Feedback.” This original metaphor has helped many people I’ve taught over the years understand the power of strategically crafted feedback, and I hope it helps you, too!

Transcript of audio provided below. Closed captioning coming soon. 

Self-efficacy is the belief you can accomplish a task.

Throughout our lifetime, we get tons of feedback. We likely get plenty of “good jobs,” “well dones” atta girls or attaboys, all kinds of feedback. And the feedback we receive in our life affects our motivation. It helps us answer the question, “can I do this?” When we ask ourselves this question, we are measuring our self-efficacy. Self efficacy is the belief one holds in their ability to accomplish a task. 
Self-efficacy is different than self-esteem. Self-esteem answers the question, how do I feel about myself? This difference matters, because High self-efficacy predicts achievement, whereas high self-esteem does not.  Since self-efficacy affects our behavior and performance, where does it come from? There are four sources. 
  1. Mastery Experiences: That is previous related experiences and performances. One might think: I did task, therefore I think I can do more challenging task.
  2. Vicarious Experiences (or more simply the observation or introduction of role-models). One might think: Someone did task, therefore I think I can do task.
  3. Physiological or emotional cues if interpreted as signs of ability. One might think: Just because I am experiencing this [emotion or physiological response], it doesn’t mean I cannot do [task].
  4. Social Persuasion is feedback and support from others. One might think: Someone said they believed I could do task, therefore I think I can do task. 
Feedback messages like these are a type of social persuasion. But are the attaboys and attagirls,  the simple pat on the back with a “good job” that useful in building our self-efficacy?
With some adjustments, and using a VERY simple formula, we can improve our feedback messages to be a super booster for self-efficacy. 


Let’s start with a story. When I was a little girl, I remember going to the grocery store with my parents, and always longing for a quarter to spend in the vintage toy machines near the checkout. I knew inside those machines were fun little toys. 
Two of the most common toys I recall were bouncy balls that were quickly lost under the furniture, and the sticky wall crawlers that you could throw at the wall, entertaining ME for hours. 
Feedback reminds me of these two simple toys. 

Two types of feedback

Bouncy ball feedback is the pat on the back, nice job, type of feedback. Though well intentioned, it doesn’t really stick with us.
Sticky feedback is praise, with acknowledgement of a specific mastery task and acknowledgment of effort. Plus, When we offer process-based praise, we support a growth mindset. 

Let's practice...

Let’s give sticky feedback a try. “I believe that you can do this! I know that because you have demonstrated achievement that suggests so, and I noticed that you worked really hard along the way.” While this feedback is generic, it’s best to be as specific as possible.

What’s the point of building self-efficacy?

You might be asking, what’s the point of building self-efficacy? Well, a person with a high self-efficacy has greater:
So, the next time you offer feedback, remember… sticky feedback is best. 
Headshot of Dr. Meagan Pollock

Meagan Pollock, PhD

Dr. Meagan Pollock envisions a world where personal and social circumstances are not obstacles to achieving potential, and where kindness, inclusivity, and conservation prevail.

An international speaker, teacher, engineer, and equity leader, her mission is to provide services, tools, and resources that inspire awareness and initiate action.

As an engineer turned educator, Meagan Pollock is focused on engineering equity into education and the workforce.

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