13. Growth Mindsets and Feedback

13. Growth Mindsets and Feedback

Through feedback you can help students to do more than they can currently do. Feedback gives students access to your expertise. The information contained in feedback shows them how to move forward. However, if they are predisposed to view feedback in a negative light then they will be unlikely to take on and use the feedback you provide.

Students with a growth mindset more likely to embrace and make use of feedback then students with a fixed mindset. This is because they begin from the premise that intelligence, talent and ability can go up or down. They therefore believe that their learning can change, that their knowledge and understanding can change, and that they have the central role in facilitating change. Students with a growth mindset are more likely to look for information that will help them to change. Hence why it is likely they will see feedback as useful.

If a student has a fixed mindset they may see feedback as a potential threat. This is a logical conclusion given the central premise that animates a fixed mindset. If you believe that intelligence, talent and ability are innate and cannot change, then feedback provided by someone else can feel like a negative comment on who you are. Given that you do not believe your intelligence, talent and ability can change it makes sense not to see feedback as something useful; something which can help you to grow.

This throws up two important points. First, when promoting growth mindsets with our students one of the things we want to promote is the idea that feedback is good and can help us to learn, grow and develop. Second, when giving feedback we need to be mindful of whether or not students will view this positively. If a student has a negative perspective on feedback then they are unlikely to use the information we provide or implement any target we set them. This significantly diminishes the impact of our feedback, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy in which student perceptions of feedback are confirmed.

A helpful technique is to talk to students about times when you have received feedback that has helped you to learn and grow. When doing this, be sure to draw the connection between the feedback you were given, how you implemented this, and the results which followed. Your aim should be to help students understand that feedback has positive consequences, is not an attack on their sense of self, and can help them to take control of their learning.

Another option is to bring in examples of work you have produced in which feedback played a big role. For example, a university essay, a piece of work you created when you were at school, a lesson plan, or a video of you driving. In the last example, you could use this to illustrate how the feedback your driving instructor provided allowed you to change, grow and develop your abilities as a driver. This is a powerful exemplification of the role feedback plays in learning.

Practical takeaway

When giving feedback to students who may be operating from a fixed mindset, model and scaffold the feedback so that it is easier for them to see what it will look like when implemented, and why this represents a development on what they are currently doing.

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13. Growth Mindsets and Feedback

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