GROWTH MINDSET FEEDBACK & PRAISE
HOW FEEDBACK & PRAISE CAN CREATE A HEALTHY GROWTH MINDSET OR A DESTRUCTIVE FIXED MINDSET CULTURE
A TAG TEAM ARTICLE & STUDY BY: TREVOR RAGAN & TAMMIE MEEHAN
Why it Matters
Carol Dweck’s famous study on growth mindset praise shows how big of an impact words have on our mindsets. The study showed that students who received praise focused on their efforts and strategies enter a growth mindset, work harder, become more resilient, and perform better than students who were praised for their talents and abilities – these students will likely enter a fixed mindset.
This 5 minute video explains the study and shows how subtle differences in praise can have a MASSIVE impact on students:
It does a great job of laying out the basics but there are a few more things to keep in mind:
- It focuses strictly on praise but the same rules apply to critiquing a performance
- There are 3 ways to praise/critique someone:
PersonThis is when we direct our praise or critique at the person: “YOU are so smart,” “YOU are such a good dancer,” “YOU aren’t good at math,” “YOU can’t shoot.” As you can see, if it involves the word “you” it’s most likely praise or a critique on the person.
The video shows that:
1. Feedback directed at the process is great and will encourage a growth mindset.
2. Feedback directed at the person or outcomes can be destructive and will likely create a fixed mindset. Remember this for later (WARNING: it might make you sick).
We thought it would be cool to put some numbers around all of this and measure the types of feedback people hear throughout the day. So we created a simple sheet and sent it out to coaches, parents, students, and teachers from all over the world (ok – mostly just the US and Australia). Everyone tracked their feedback for a day and then we added it all up.
The results… well, they blew our minds and led to two really big “holy s#%*t” moments for us.
Holy S#%*t Moment #1: The biggest source of feedback gets the least attention
More love needs to be given to this part of the equation. We need to work to teach students and athletes how to give good feedback to one and other. This will help foster a growth mindset by making feedback more consistent across the board. We tried this out with a class of 5-6 yr olds in Australia and it was amazing (see feedback intervention below).
Holy S#%*t Moment #2: The vast majority of feedback is the WRONG kind
It also showed how feedback directed at the person or outcome can be extremely destructive. It creates a fixed mindset where we become more concerned with looking good than getting better. It ends up people are great at giving BAD feedback – over 75% of the feedback people hear throughout the day is directed at outcomes or at them as person… 😐
1. People are great at giving destructive feedback
2. People could use some work at giving good feedback
3. We need to change this
A Feedback Intervention
A few months ago Tammie Meehan took a group of 5-6 yr old students and did something pretty amazing:
In November 2014, our class of 5-6 year olds showed a HUGE interest in bugs, insects and minibeasts – all of those creepy crawly things that kids their age LOVE. So we decided to design a project around this topic.
Our goal? To model ‘peer-to-peer feedback’ to our students while they learnt about a topic they loved.
Each student got to select a creepy crawly that they wanted to learn about. They were each given an authentic photo of the creature and their goal was to draw it like a scientist would.
Examples of round 1 drawings:
All of our students were grouped into ‘feedback teams’ of 3-4 students and were explicitly taught how to give and receive feedback. They were taught to give feedback that was:
• Helpful (process focused)
After getting feedback from their peers the students attempted another drawing – we repeated this process a few times so each student received five feedback rounds and made five attempts at drawing their bug.
Here are the round 5 drawings. Both the teachers and students were blown away with the progress:
The final results and progress the students made during this exercise was amazing. However, even more impressive was the shift in the atmosphere of the classroom.
Students were more concerned with helping one and other improve their drawings than anything else. There were no “THAT doesn’t even look like a bug,” or “wow YOU are such a good drawer” comments. Everybody was focused on giving great feedback.
The students were also more determined to learn. They thought nothing of revising their pictures over and over again, their growth mindset gave them the confidence to keep trying because they knew that was how they learn and improve.
If one feedback lesson can lead to these type of results (both in the quality of drawings and the growth mindset culture within the classroom) imagine what could be accomplished over the course of a semester, or a year, or five years… What could be accomplished in your classroom, on your team, within your organization?
Teaching feedback to help create a growth mindset within your classroom, organization, or team works. We suggest that you:
1. Create a culture in your learning spaces where mistakes are celebrated. It is important that your students understand that they can learn from mistakes and you need to promote that message. Demonstrate that all great work goes through a process of many mistakes. These posters & videos will help.
2. Ensure you maintain a culture in your learning space where peer feedback is considered the norm and is to be welcomed. All students need to understand that feedback must be kind, specific and helpful at all times. Focus feedback on the process rather than comments of a personal nature. You want to create a learning space that thrives on trust where students can express themselves and express their thinking with confidence.
3. Create feedback partners or teams within your class and provide regular collaboration opportunities. You will need to encourage your students to use examples of great work to guide their feedback and establish a protocol for giving and receiving feedback.
For more on how to instill a growth mindset culture check out The Growth Mindset Playbook.
From Trev: I would like to give a HUGE thanks and S/O to Tammie for helping out with this essay. She is spearheading a growth mindset rampage down under and it was a pleasure getting to learn from her. Check out Tammie’s: