During Celebration of Learning May 7 – 11, Trinity School celebrates its most authentic form of assessment: parents and friends will interface with children to witness and talk to children about their efforts and accomplishments that informed their learning this year.
If you are a visiting parent or friend, here are some tips for supporting the child and getting hearty responses.
You have a very important role as you interface with children. Did you know that your comments and questions can either shut down a child’s desire to persevere or can encourage growth? Of course, we all want to encourage children – and whether we actually do or not resides in the language we choose.
We’ve learned from Carol Dwek’s* important work on motivation that, very broadly, we can think of fixed mindset and growth mindset. When a child (or adult!) exhibits a fixed mindset, mental and emotional energy flows toward protecting one’s current perceived status. When exhibiting a growth mindset a child (or adult!) is willing to try again, to experiment, to take risks and persevere. Isn’t growth the mindset we want to encourage?
The questions you ask encourage a child either toward a fixed mindset or toward a growth mindset – and the power of the question you ask resides in its subtext. Subtext being the deeper meaning behind the works we say. Below are two comments or questions along with a possible interpretation of the subtext for both the adult and child.
Comment Skewed Toward a Fixed Mindset
Adult: “You are amazing, brilliant! This is beautiful work!”
Subtext an Adult Intends: I love you so much it hurts. I’m so proud of you.
Subtext a Child Hears: She thinks I’m smart. I never want to disappoint her. I want to be the smartest kid she knows. I don’t have to try so hard next time. I’m already brilliant! – And what if next time she is disappointed?
Comments and Questions Skewed Toward a Growth Mindset
Adult: “Tell me how you made this. What did you do first? How did you know what to do next? What do you think of your work? What was really hard about this? How did you feel about getting this done? If you wanted to do more with this, what would you do next?”
Subtext and Adult Intends: You know I adore you. I want you to be a confident problem-solver and to keep trying new ideas. I want you to feel good about how you learn and grow.)
Subtext a Child Hears: She knows I worked hard. She is interested. She likes it when I know a lot about something. I see that my work matters. I’m not doing more on this project, but maybe next time…
When in doubt about what to say about a child’s efforts, keep this in mind: comments tend to summarize and declare a judgment – whether positive or negative. Open-ended questions invite conversation and the exchange of ideas and feelings.
There are so many ways that your presence, your touch, your smile communicate love to your child. When you come to Celebration of Learning, enjoy your visit because your presence is for your child the very best part of Celebration of Learning.
*Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, by Carol Dweck