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The Growth Mindset

by Neil Finney

The Growth MindsetProviding descriptive feedback in a timely manner has been an educational focus for school systems around the world for some time. But, what if the feedback we give is not optimal for eliciting the best response and ability in our students. Thanks to some new research, “the growth mindset” revolution may be on the tips of tongues around you and this is the next great front in the evolution of feedback.

“The Power of Belief” by Eduardo Briceno is a “TedTalks” video that, among other things, explains how the potential – and conditions – for learning are dramatically influenced by the kinds of feedback we give. After watching this video – as part of a Student Success training day – here’s what I took away from it – in terms of the way I provide feedback to my students and how it can support the creation of “growth mindsets:”

•  Process – Not Product. Rather than focusing on the end result of learning (i.e. the product or summative task), it is more effective for me to provide small, incremental stages of feedback throughout the learning process. Instead of saying “great job” or “what an excellent model you have built,” I will try comments such as, “I really like the way your plan shows your steps – did you change anything as you were building?”

•  Learning is a Constant Process. As life-long, self-directed learners, we should strive to build these same skills in our students. Our comments, questions – feedback – should be a constant dialogue about HOW BEST the student will recognize the importance and centrality of learning in their lives. I’ll try to avoid comments like “great thinking” and “writing is a strength of yours!” in their writing response journal, and instead try, “I really enjoyed reading your thoughts, how does writing make you feel?”

•  Shift the Focus to the Internal Processes. Student thinking – and paying attention to that thinking – is another buzz of the educational world in a drive to improve student learning. Providing effective feedback, at the right time, can move students dramatically in their level of success and motivation to learn. I’ll try to ask questions that focus on their thinking, feelings and strategies; hoping that they will draw out intriguing insights and important details about how best I can support the next stages in their learning process.

Teaching to the “growth mindset” will take dedicated efforts and insightful problem-solving on our part. But, it is an exciting venture to cast off what we do – and think we know all about – and try new things that may yield better results. This is, in effect, the kind of risk-taking and open learning that we are striving for in our students – so who better to model it than us – as their teacher.


How do you think that focusing on the “growth mindset” will improve your student learning? How important do you think feedback is DURING the learning process?



During Neilʼs 10 years of teaching experience, he has taught in London, England; Ontario; public and private schools; elementary and secondary; junior; intermediate; core french; developmental skills; and junior gifted (grades 4,5,6). He is a Reading Specialist that has been incorporating technology in his practice consistently throughout his career. Neil has recently published his first book entitled “Ignite. Incite. Inspire.” – Examining 21st Century Issues in Education, which is a collection of teaching articles and posts written from January to December 2011.


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