Growth Mindset Feedback Not Working? Here’s Why… And What to Do About It

Having a growth mindset means understanding that intelligence can be developed. …

But there’s a problem….

  

A growth mindset is a belief that we can get smarter through hard work and practice. This means that struggling with something difficult doesn’t mean you’re not smart—it’s a chance to grow your intelligence. Growth mindset is all about trying hard, using good strategies, and getting the help you need.

Sounds great right? Here’s the problem…

A big issue with delivering feedback to students is the level of trust that they have with the teacher and with school in general. Mistrust in school is a problem when dealing with at-risk students in challenging circumstances. Why don’t they trust the school?

(For more on The Tell Tale Sign of A Growth Mindset Click Here)

Here’s why:

All people look through their ego lens when judging other people.  The Mission of the ego lens is to …

See things in a way that perceiver  comes out on top

The Ego lens has four strategies to make sure that the perceiver (the student) comes out on top:

  1. Focus on how student is better than you or group is better (us vs. them) (ex: teachers don’t get it)
  2. Focus on how student and you are in the same group and therefore perceiver can enjoy success and bask in reflected glory (ex: the teacher and my goals are aligned)
  3. Decide good qualities are not a threat b/c not competing for the same resources or b/c perceiver doesn’t value resources (ex: I don’t want to do good in school anyway.  It’s for dorks)
  4. If (1-3) don’t work or apply.  Your good qualities and accomplishments are a threat to perceived self esteem therefore avoid or sabotage (ex: I’ll never make it out of this neighborhood and this guy did.)

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So what do you do?

 
From characterlab.org:

You have to (truthfully!) convince kids that their efforts will result in increased ability (because ability can grow!) and remind them that they’re learning when something is hard for them to do.

Observing Growth Mindset

Having a growth mindset could involve:

  • Taking on new challenges with optimism
  • Being able to talk about what you learned

Tips for Introducing Growth Mindset

  • Say “yet”

When students say, “I can’t do this” or “I’m not good at this,” respond by adding the word “yet.” It reminds students that they have the potential that it takes to achieve hard goals.

  • Talk about the brain like a muscle

Students can think of a brain like a muscle that can be built up over time through exercise.

Here’s The Best Part….

Untitled design

Give Wise Feedback

According to a study where multiple types of feedback to students were tested, the best example of giving feedback on essays had been a combination of three components.

These components were:

  1. Criticism,
  2. Indication of high standards, and
  3. Assurance that the student could meet the high standards.[i]

These studies were performed on 7th-grade students and the effect was  greater for African-American students than for White students.

(Here’s another way to overcome the achievement gap)

Here comes the ego threat evidence…

Apparently, many of the students did not trust the school system to provide them with accurate feedback and instead believed that when they were criticized it was because the teacher “did not like them” and other non–attribution theories.

(Here’s another way to overcome Ego Threat)

In the first study, the emphasizing of high standards and the expressing the belief that the student was capable of meeting those standards (known as Wise Feedback) increased the students’ likelihood of turning in a revised draft of an essay.

Those in the African-American control group turned in a revised copy only 17% of the time, but those in the “wise feedback” group turned in revised essays 72% of time. [ii]

Magic? Not likely. But you consider the following 19 words magic:

“I’m giving you these comments because I have very high expectations and I know that you can reach them.”

Those Magic 19 Words were the exact feedback given. 

While turning in revised essays is a good thing, the question still remained whether if these were better quality or not?

First, the overall number of corrections for the wise feedback technique was more than twice the number of corrections as the students in the control group.

According to the study:

“More treated students undertook revision and improved their work.   Wise criticism was designed to disabuse African American students of the relevance of the stereotype, so that they no longer saw criticism in light of long-standing suspicions of teacher bias. The finding was that the intervention severed the correlation between chronic mistrust and performance supports the notion that wise feedback can indeed do this. Though benefiting students on the whole, the effects of wise feedback were greatest among African American students with low trust in school.[iii]

The first two studies in this report took part in a suburban middle school with a diverse population of students. The last part, which is probably the most valuable from a school leadership perspective, took place at an urban middle school. The researchers decided to see if they could improve overall trust and therefore increase grades in students by teaching them the same techniques that the teacher used.

In summary, they were taught to internalize the wise feedback to apply it to not just one assignment, but to school in general.

Once again, this simple classroom hack had tremendous effects.

“…show(s) that a theory-driven intervention can produce an attributional shift in students that sticks. African American students were led to attribute ongoing feedback in school—rather than a single instance of it—to their teachers’ high standards and belief in their potential. As a consequence they earned higher grades and were less likely to fail their courses.[iv]

Teachers who take the time to deliver this message to individual students, groups of students, or possibly in the beginning of the course should have demonstrably better trust from their students.

References:

[i] Yeager, D., Purdie-Vaughns, V., Garcia, J., Apfel, N., Brzustoski, P., Master, A., … Cohen, G. (2014). Breaking the cycle of mistrust: Wise interventions to provide critical feedback across the racial divide. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 143(2), 804-824.

[ii] Yeager, D., Purdie-Vaughns, V., Garcia, J., Apfel, N., Brzustoski, P., Master, A., … Cohen, G. (2014). Breaking the cycle of mistrust: Wise interventions to provide critical feedback across the racial divide. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 143(2), 804-824.

[iii] Yeager, D., Purdie-Vaughns, V., Garcia, J., Apfel, N., Brzustoski, P., Master, A., … Cohen, G. (2014). Breaking the cycle of mistrust: Wise interventions to provide critical feedback across the racial divide. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 143(2), 804-824.

[iv] Yeager, D., Purdie-Vaughns, V., Garcia, J., Apfel, N., Brzustoski, P., Master, A., … Cohen, G. (2014). Breaking the cycle of mistrust: Wise interventions to provide critical feedback across the racial divide. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 143(2), 804-824.

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