9. Specific Feedback

Week 1 – Specific Feedback – Growth mindset

In 2010 I worked at a school where the main approach used was Project-Based Learning. One of the main components of PBL is providing immediate, concise, and specific feedback to students for them to make adjustments to their product or learning path. I have to admit that I have sometimes settled for student work that underestimated the capacity of my students to create high quality work. Through PBL, I learned that with clarity, critique, and support my students were capable of much more than I ever imagined. That is the power of “YET”. It was an amazing and eye-opening learning journey for me and for my students. It was a challenge for my students to hear that the first draft of a product was not the final one. The specific feedback I learned to provide allow them to see how much they could grow form draft one to draft two and three. We focused on growth rather than achievement. It was definitely a challenging journey for all stakeholders: parents, students, and me as a teacher. For my students, focusing on the feedback to reach the learning goal – I usually created rubrics for each PBL unit – was a mindshift. The school still used letter grades but the PBL units were designed to zero in on student learning and growth. For parents, the journey was a bit different. The school tried to have PBL presentations per grade level once every term, invited parents to provide feedback regarding students’ projects, and be a part of the audience during student presentations so that they were able to see student growth. The main concern they had was grades. As a campus, we designed rubrics that were aligned to the standards, provided specific feedback and invited parents to actively engaged in the process. 

I was part of an educational system that praised qualities such as intelligence and ability – fixed mindset. As the infographic by Nigel Holmes shows, with a fixed mindset individuals give up easily at the first challenge they face. They usually see the rocks as problems that will stop them from reaching their goal rather than opportunities to learn and grow. But how can one build a growth mindset? Having an open mind and practice active listening or seek to understand. By doing so, I can see things from other’s point of view, see their reasons and understand what they mean when providing feedback. I want my students to persevere in each one of their tasks or projects in my classes. John Spencer’s work (https://spencerauthor.com/) and George Courous’ books and blog (https://georgecouros.ca/blog/) will help me dig deeper into this topic. 

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