As the first quarter comes to an end, students will be coming home with report cards that can be a stressful time for students and parents. In this time of assessment-driven learning, it is easy to focus on results rather than effort. It is true that these scores are important for students and teachers, but it is easy to overlook the journey if your eyes are focused soley on the destination. As students review their report card, it is critical to examine it through the proper lens. The scores are important, but the effort given to achieve the grades and how a student responds to the grades is really worth investigating.
The book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success discusses the ideas of effort and praise. To summarize, the book discusses “fixed mindsets,” those that see intelligence and talent as static attributes; and “growth mindsets,” those that feel those aptitudes can be honed through hard work. A “fixed mindset” person would view a report card as a definition of himself or herself. The report card would identify them as smart, talented, or the contrary. This viewpoint is in opposition to that of a “growth mindset” individual that sees the report card as a tool to help them develop. If the scores are high, then a “growth minded” individual will seek further challenges. If scores are low, then they will work to find ways to improve.
Having a “growth mindset” is critical, and fostering it can begin at any age. When working with young children and teens, being aware of effort and praising that effort is crucial. Presenting challenges, recognizing setbacks, and allowing failure is healthy for children when accompanied by the recognition of genuine effort. Parents need to talk to their children about how they can grow from experiences and setbacks.
The development of a “growth mindset” and the ability to reflect on performance as well as effort will lead to a well-rounded student who is better suited to deal with the challenges at school and life because they recognize that their successes and failures are not a reflection of them as an individual, but their effort. Praising effort will also lead to a better self-image, increased ability to deal with obstacles, and ultimately more success. So, while evaluating the first quarter grades, parents and students can work on cultivating a “growth mindset” by discussing and learning from what led to the grades instead of focusing solely on the outcomes.
This column solely represents the writer's opinion.