Grades and Mindsets

Yesterday I received a grade that I felt was bad and as a result I was quite upset. I felt like I was no longer good at this subject that I’d made high A’s in for so long.

But my parents helped me remember that the grade wasn’t necessarily a reflection of my aptitude in the subject. It served as a benchmark for improvement and allowed me to see what I need to work on.

This ties in well with Carol Dweck’s Mindset. I’ve striven to be a more growth mindset person yet my reaction yesterday was rather fixed mindset-y. I must remember that grades aren’t the most important. The focus should be instead upon the learning and the process, not the end result.

2 thoughts on “Grades and Mindsets

  1. Tara,
    this is a fantastic post, and a fantastic lesson. How do you scale these ideas? Some questions I have:

    If you weren’t getting any grades at all, how could you find out whether your were doing well or not? What would doing well mean?

    Does the constant discussion of grades and scores help this or hurt this? What’s the appropriate thing to say/do when everyone is talking about grades on a most recent paper/test?

    How do we get more students to think about growth mindset in approaching their grades? Remembering that grades really are only the shadows of learning, not the learning.

    What can teachers do to aid this process?

    It’s also awesome that you have wonderful parents who help encourage you to understand growth mindset. I firmly believe this will ultimately lead to even greater success than simply focusing on grades alone, but of course, not everyone feels this way, particularly some parents. How do we change that?

    All tough questions with no easy answers I’m afraid, but I’m thrilled to hear that one more student than I knew about previously is making progress down this path…

    • Mr. Burk,
      1. Formative Assessment is key here. Using problems with multiple levels of difficulty to gauge where you sit on a certain concept would be more effective, in my opinion. Doing well could be moving up a level, or achieving a personal goal.

      2. Grades are ingrained currently in the structure of traditional school. I believe, that for now, conversation centered on grades is not just going to dissapear. Sure it will start to diminish, but slowly. To get anything accomplished, students have to realize that grades are not the end all be all of learning, but a springboard for improvement. By putting emphasis on getting better at a concept and less focus on the grades, teachers can start to shift the mindset.

      I sound a bit repetitive, so I’ll sum it up by saying that it all starts with an acknowledgement that learning and education is MORE than just numbers on a paper, that it’s about life skills and constant improvement.

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