Tag Archive for mindset

Wrestling with Feedback

Image from Binghamton Univ

Image from Binghamton Univ

For the past couple of months my evenings and weekends have been devoted to wrestling.  This is a new sport for me, but one my family is enjoying together as we watch and encourage my 8 year-old in a sport that he has found to love.

We have now been to 6 tournaments with the opportunity to watch him improve each time with feedback and guided practice from his coaches.  Whether it is a practice or a tournament I have found that his coaches are quick to give feedback in a positive way that is specific enough to tell him what he needs to do differently.  In addition to the verbal feedback they follow the Optimal Learning Model of “I do, we do, we do, you do” by modeling the move, then physically moving their body to practice it and then watching it as they practice the move with a partner while continuing to provide feedback.

While at tournaments I have been saddened to see how some coaches/parents respond to their wrestlers in a way that is certainly not helpful feedback.  I’ve heard comments such as, “You should have done better than that!” “I can’t believe you didn’t cradle him!” or “You let him pin you!”  I have also seen some of these wrestlers a few times now at different tournaments and see the difference in their progress compared to others.  Those that are given positive, encouraging feedback with specific ways to improve seem to improve each time and enjoy the sport whether they win or lose.  Others that have been given hard feedback only seem happy when they win and are practically devastated when they lose.  I can only predict that they won’t make it long in the sport.

I can’t help, but make this wrestling connection to what I have learned from the book Mindset by Carol Dweck and the idea of having a growth mindset or a fixed mindset.  I am also currently reading Opening Minds by Peter Johnston. Johnston talks about “yet” as a key word to help keep children from having a fixed mindset, that we want them to say, “I’m not good at this yet” and take steps to help them change that.  As I think about giving feedback in the school setting and as a parent, one quote from Johnston that sticks with me the most is:

“How we give children feedback is probably the most difficult for us to change, but it is probably the point of most leverage.”



Fostering Grit

fostering gritI recently finished reading the book Fostering Grit, which is an ASCD Arias book (it is short enough to read in a 1 hour sitting) written by Thomas R. Hoerr.

Every great educator knows that we can not only teach students content; that we must also teach character traits such as respect, responsibility, kindness, etc.  Hoerr wrote this short guide under the premise that we must also teach the virtue of grit, which he defines as tenacity, perseverance, and the ability to never give up.  The author points out that teaching grit can be difficult for educators, because “it runs counter to the caring school environments that we all esteem.”  The author shares that we need to teach our students to respond positively to setbacks and to respond appropriately when things go wrong; as he writes, “turn a failure into a good failure, one from which we learn.”

As I read Hoerr’s book on how grit helps us to be resilient and to persevere when we fail, I made many connections to what I learned when reading Mindset by Carol Dweck.  The concept of having grit goes hand in hand with the teaching students the concept of having a growth mindset.

Hoerr writes that as educators we can help teach our students to develop grit by introducing them to levels of complexity that are out of their comfort zone, to cause frustration and then help students to understand the frustration and how to respond to it.  Students will benefit from us sharing our personal stories with them of how we have overcome obstacles and talking about the importance of grit.  We can also share examples of others we know or famous people such as professional athletes, actors or even former presidents that our students may be surprised (and interested) in learning about the obstacles they overcame and how having grit helped them to be successful.

The author of Fostering Grit shares Six Steps of Teaching for Grit that each have great strategies to foster grit in your students:

1. Establish the environment

2. Set the expectations

3. Teach the vocabulary

4. Create the frustration

5. Monitor the experience

6. Reflect and learn

During Daily 5, students come back to the carpet in between “rounds” for a check-in which often serves as an opportunity for students to reflect on the reading/writing work they did.  Many of our teachers have added other opportunities for reflection throughout the day. As I read Step 6, “Reflect and learn” I realized what a great opportunity reflection can be for students to stop and think about how easy/challenging a task is for them and think about how they felt when they didn’t give up on a frustrating task.

What other ways can you foster grit in students?

fostering grit quote

Encouraging a growth mindset

Here’s a cross-post from my staff memo blog…

Last school year I learned a great deal from the book Mindset, by Carol Dweck and shared my learning with you in this post. I don’t know if anyone else also read this book, but I am starting to notice a lot of classroom practices and teachers talking in ways to encourage students to have a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset.

In one classroom, students were discussing the following quote: “We all make mistakes. That’s why a pencil has an eraser.”  I’ve been lucky enough to get into several classrooms during the math talk time to hear students explain their thinking or to see students writing to “Puzzled Penguin” to tell him what math mistake he made.

In another classroom during science stations, students were told “Don’t worry if you get it wrong, just try to think of what it might be and then check to see if you’re right. Think about the new things you’re learning.”  At the end of this class period, students’ exit slips included listing 3 new things they learned.  What was most amazing to me is throughout this class period, one student stood out to me as the model reason of why we need to encourage students to have a growth mindset.  During an iPad quiz, I watched this student answer questions as quickly as possible and when she got them wrong, moved on without even paying attention to what the correct answer was so she could learn from it.  When she moved on to a partner quiz with student-made notecards, she was proud to share that she had 15 right and only 5 wrong. When I asked her what she learned from the 5 wrong she said, “oh, I guess I should look at them.”  At the end of the class period when students were given the exit slips on 3 new things they learned, everyone started writing, but this student said, “I didn’t learn anything new.”

The teacher did everything she could to encourage students to focus on what new things they were learning, however, this particular student has already become so used to focusing on getting the right answers, that she hasn’t learned how to learn from the wrong answers.  She was my “aha moment” of why we need to continue our work on helping our students to become passionate about learning, develop a growth mindset, and learn from mistakes.

If you’re looking for great posters/quotes on this topic, I found great ones from Krissy Venosdale.  Here are some of my favorites:


Here is another cross-post of my “Friday Focus” from my Staff Memo Blog this week:

Previously, I shared with you that I planned to read the book Mindset by Carol Dweck over break, because I had heard about it on Twitter and read another educator’s blog post about it. The premise of the book is that there are two different mind states from which we operate:

    • Fixed Mindset – you believe your intelligence, skills and abilities are carved in stone, or static.


  • Growth Mindset – you believe that you can cultivate your basic qualities through your efforts.



Dweck draws upon studies and examples of students, business leaders, athletes, and her own teaching and personal life as she discusses how these differing mindsets can affect how we approach anything in life. I found this book to be extremely interesting to me for myself as a leaner, as a teacher, as a principal, as a parent, and even as a wife.

As an educator, the student that stood out in my mind the most as I read this is that student that has so much potential, but just doesn’t put forth the effort. Maybe he/she is even highly gifted and has excelled so easily in previous grades or units, but now that the academics are getting more difficult, he’s not used to having to study or work at it and doesn’t. I’m sure that you can all identify a student like this in your classroom. A great graphic I found that highlights each mindset is below (click on this link if you need a larger view):

Image by Nigel Holmes



So, what can you do (besides pull your hair out) to help these students? One of the biggest tools we have to help these students is our feedback/praise. In one of Dweck’s studies with hundreds of students, they started out with groups that were equal in IQ scores, but then were given different types of feedback/praise. In one group students were given feedback that praised their ability (ex: “Wow, you got eight right. That’s really good, you must be smart at this.”) while the other group was given feedback/praise on their effort (ex: “Wow, you got eight right, that’s a really good score. You must have worked really hard.”). After praise on ability was given, they could begin to see students differ in each group. The students in the praise group were pushed into a fixed mindset. When given a choice, they rejected a challenging new task that they could learn from and instead picked an easy problem that they already knew how to do. They didn’t want to do anything that would expose their inability to answer a question. In contrast, the students in the other group that were praised for their effort, 90 percent of them wanted the challenging new task that they could learn from. When the problems became difficult, they enjoyed them and showed better performance. The effort praised kids showed better and better performance as the ability praised kids plummeted.

What does this mean for us? Kids are very intuitive to what they’re being judged on and it can affect their mindset. The very tool you have to help students be successful is in your choice of words as you provide them with feedback to empower them. If you praise students for being smart or talented, in the long-run, you will be leading them into a fixed mindset. If you give praise on their effort and hard work, you will be fostering in them the belief that they can continue to work hard to learn and achieve.

It is also important to think about yourself…do you have a fixed or growth mindset of yourself? What messages are you telling yourself when you find something that you don’t know how to do, or you try and fail at something? Do you believe that you can keep working at it to learn it or do you give up? Do you ask others for help when you’re not sure or are you afraid that they will think you’re stupid?

I could seriously talk about what I’ve learned in this book forever, but I know you only have a few minutes to read this. For your reflection this week, please think about what your mindset is and on what type of feedback you give your students.