Students learn to give feedback with a growth mindset

Yesterday Algebra’s Friend introduced me to a new professional development blog Read…Chat…Reflect…Learn! While I enjoy reading blogs for lesson ideas, I also love reading journal and magazine articles, books, research studies, etc. as another way to stay current. I’m glad I found this blog and I’m thrilled to see that it’s in its infancy, only because it makes me feel that I haven’t missed out on too much!

The current topic is feedback. The article for discussion was How Am I Doing? It offered a good overview, but what was missing was how to provide feedback using a growth mindset. This excerpt, Types of Feedback and Their Purposes,  gives clear examples. One type of feedback I tend to focus on is descriptive as opposed to judgmental feedback.

When examining student work for feedback I’ve collected their work in progress, and provided descriptive feedback. I won’t kid you. It’s time consuming. But an idea was floating in my head. What if I taught students to give each other feedback with a growth mindset?  I don’t want you to think I am shirking my responsibilities, but could math students offer feedback similar to students who participate in peer editing compositions?

After reading Algebra’s Friend post I thought I would give it a try. Yesterday and today I showed my students this Would You Rather problem. They were to work in groups of four to solve.

After the groups worked for about 10-15 minutes, I collected their work, redistributed them to different groups and asked the new group to provide feedback. Here’s an example:


Kids being kids, their feedback was somewhat judgmental and not of a growth mindset. Had they rephrased their wording to questions such as, “How could labeling help explain your thinking?” or a statement such as “The final answer is not clear,” would definitely put them on the track towards feedback with a growth mindset.

Doing this activity in groups made it quite manageable as only six responses were being critiqued. While I monitored each group I asked them what questions they had about the other group’s work. I also asked them to be positive with their feedback. Each problem was circulated twice. Doing so also gave groups the opportunity to see how others approached the problem and perhaps revamp their thinking.

Here’s how the above group implemented the feedback:



The next time I see them we’ll continue the conversation of how to offer feedback with a growth mindset. With more practice they’ll get better at it.

I should have thought of this at the start of the year.




8 thoughts on “Students learn to give feedback with a growth mindset

  1. Hi there, I just discovered this professional development group, too. You make a good point about the type of feedback. A book I’m reading at the moment talks about types of feedback: appreciation, coaching, and evaluation. In these terms, you are trying to help your students coach each other instead of evaluating each other’s responses. I have been trying to use the word “coach” when I want students to give feedback to each other, because I think they know how a coach would say, “try bending your knees”.

    I just bought Dweck’s book Mindset so I am eager to learn more about mindsets. How else has it affected what you do?

    1. What’s the title of the book you mentioned? I’d like to read it.

      The growth mindset has affected me in a number of ways. I now have students monitor their own growth with pre-tests, formative assessments, retakes, etc. It reinforces, “This is important. You can do it. I won’t give up on you.” I offer hints framed as questions instead of telling the students what to do next. It forces them to do the thinking and demonstrates I know they are capable of problem solving. Written feedback, as I stated on the post, is time consuming and I reserve it for major tasks where I stop the work, collect it, provide feedback then return it. See here and here. Althought I’ve fallen short the number of large tasks where I collect work in progress and provide feedback.

      Thanks for your comments.

      1. Thanks for this post Mary. I have tried to give kids the opportunity to comment/offer feedback to each other, but always in what seems to be a half-baked way that turns out to be too judgmental and not really helpful. You’ve encouraged me to redouble my efforts to make this happen while keeping the idea of a growth mindset front and center.

      2. Thanks for your detailed reply. I see from your “money under the mattress” task how you gave feedback exclusively as questions–brilliant idea as it reinforces your goal of telling them they can figure things out for themselves.

        The book I am reading is Thanks for the Feedback by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen. It’s written mainly from a leadership and management perspective, but it’s been helpful both personally and professionally.

  2. I like the idea of students giving feedback to their peers in a more formal setting. This past year I’ve been having students reflect and use feedback during math conferences. This is documented in their math journals and is usually facilitated by a journal prompt. I haven’t yet had students give each other specific feedback in regards to math explanations. This is something I’m going to explore in more detail.

  3. Thank you for the reflection! Now, to make things more challenging, I would be curious to see what their breaking point is on the stack of quarters. Would they really want a comparable value of quarters to $315 cash? How about $330? $290?

    1. Thanks for the shout out, John. Towards the end of the activity we measures the thickness of a quarter as well as how many quarters would fit in an inch and that led to the break even point. I even had a few of the taller students discover on their own that the better deal for them was in the quarters. It was a great activity and I plan to do it again with my new group of 7th graders. Thanks again for dropping by.

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