As I suggested in my last two posts, much of my summer learning centered around feedback, spawning learning goals focused on this concept. I'm excited about how a couple of these ideas have manifested themselves.
Carol Dweck, whose lecture I had the fortune of attending, made me rethink the way I offer students feedback on their learning. Last weekend, I sat down to grade my first set of essays for the 2012-2013 school year--you know school is in session when you're sitting down with sophomore essays on a Saturday night. In the past, here is what my feedback on one of these essays may have sounded like:
"Great essay. You are eloquent and your ideas are organized well. Consider how providing at least three examples for each point you make can provide a more substantive body of evidence for your argument. Excellent job with grammar and mechanics."
Thanks to Dweck, here is how I gave feedback on an essay showing those same qualities this fall:
"You worked hard on this essay. I can tell you put a lot of effort into your diction as well as into your structure. (The constructive criticism would remain the same.) You have challenged yourself to master grammar and mechanics, and it shows."
Nuanced disparities, yes? Here is the central difference, however. In the first comment, I praise the student. In the second, I praise the student's effort. Though one may find the difference inconsequential, Dweck suggests that when we attritute a student's success to who he is instead of the effort he puts in, we cultivate a "fixed mindset" in our students, a term Dweck defines as an understanding that one's intelligence is finite as opposed to malleable. A student comes to learn his successes are the result of who he is, not the effort he puts into his work.
Conversely, when we suggest to a student his effort toward mastery has created his success, that student understands with increased effort comes increased success, a term Dweck calls a "growth mindset". In actively cultivating this growth mindset, we teach them that one's success is not a tendency we're born with, but rather something he must work for, giving all students equal opportunity for success. How powerful.
Thanks for putting in the effort to read this blog. You challenge yourself as a learner.