Instilling a Growth Mindset requires us as teachers to promote an attitude of openness to growth and change in our students. This links with Collective Teacher Efficacy (the belief we share that our students can all do better). So our report comments should avoid being judgements such as “acceptable”, “satisfactory” etc as these suggest that there is no room for growth. Even a positive comment such as “excellent” or “very pleasing” is not that helpful if we are not celebrating why/how that excellence came about. Growth Mindset is all about developing strategies to deal with challenges.
Our comments should be in keeping with Growth Mindset principles. Comments should:
- celebrate good behaviour and character traits;
- praise hard work and commitment;
- celebrate insight, creativity, problem solving, collaboration;
- recognise the Power of Yet. View Carol Dweck’s talk on Youtube or Read this summary.
So… a challenge!
Rather than making a judgement, try to think of at least one strategy you can suggest or celebrate.
Here are some possible suggestions for improvement:
- needs to read instructions carefully so that she can answer the questions correctly
- struggled with completing her exam and so needs to work on test-taking techniques and time management
- needs to allocate the exam time better so she can complete all sections well
- needs to check her work more carefully so as to avoid making careless mistakes
- seems to be in a rush to complete work and so does not answer as well as she could with more focus and attention to detail
- answers questions superficially
- needs to check to mark allocation to see the amount of depth required for an answer
- has been working hard but needs to review her study methods so as to gain an in-depth understanding of the topics
- needs to work more consistently by concentrating in class, keeping up with the homework, and preparing in good time for tests and exams
- has been working hard and has made progress but she needs to focus on ... as we move into the second half of the year
- has worked hard and answers exam questions well but disadvantages herself with poor handwriting/untidy layout/inaccurate spelling/poor grammar
All of these can easily be adapted to be celebrations, eg:
- her ability to read instructions carefully and answer the questions correctly is commended
- Positive framing - there must be at least some positives, even if you have a negative which you need to say.
- When introducing a negative, use “although”, “but” and “however”. Just remember that you can only use “however” in the middle of a sentence like this: “Her commitment to completing work on time, however, has been inconsistent.” Which is basically the same as saying: “But her commitment to completing work on time has been inconsistent.” NOT “She is generally diligent, however, she can be distracted at times.” It should be: “She is generally diligent but can be distracted at times.” OR “Although she is generally diligent, she can be distracted at times.”
- Try not to use “and” too many times. Rather start a new sentence or better still use a relevant connecting word, eg “She is often distracted in class so she has not managed to grasp the basic concepts.” OR “She has gained in confidence because she engages actively in class discussions.”
- If your student has a good mark, and you have already praised her in your comment for diligence, consistency, insight etc, you really do not need to add: “This is an excellent mark.” Surely that is obvious. You might want to say something like: “Her excellent final mark is a just reward for a good year’s work.” OR “She can be commended for the excellent final mark she has achieved.” OR if you can fit it in easily: “... as shown by her excellent final mark.”
- If your student has achieved a mark that is OK but not YET great (for her), don’t say: “This is a reasonable/fair/satisfactory mark”. You are not pronouncing a judgement! Rather, you need to show that you see her potential and are not satisfied with a result that is merely OK. You could say something like: “Given her diligence during the year, this final result is disappointing. She needs to review her study methods for dealing with the requirements of final exams.” OR “She should not allow her disappointing final mark to discourage her as she has made pleasing progress during the year.”
- If she has obtained a mark that is unexpectedly low, you need to try to explain that, eg: “Unfortunately, her preparation for paper 2 in the exam was inadequate, hence her disappointing final mark. With greater attention to this section, and a review of her study methods, she will surely be able to achieve a better result next year.”