#Mindset13: Data – The Floor or the Ceiling?

This is the first post in my #mindset13 series.

Each time I read Mindset by Carol Dweck, the discussion of Alfred Binet (beginning on page 4) strikes me the most. The IQ test was not created to provide students with a “label.” Who knew? Binet actually designed the test to identify students who were not succeeding in the Paris school system. His ultimate goal was to use this information to design new educational programs to meet the students’ needs. It seems as though our quest for efficiency was getting in the way even over 100 years ago. This is really a short piece of the chapter, and an even shorter piece of the book. It was not brought up in any of my previous discussions of the text. So, I was excited that Justin (@MrStaubSTEM) made it part of our Twitter chat. Christian Pleister (@cpleister) referred to inappropriate use of scores as a ceiling and I absolutely agree. Sometimes I am shocked by the number of educators who still look at assessments as “ends” rather then starting points – or points within the instructional cycle. Justin used the word autopsy to describe this type of testing. I have never heard this metaphor, but it is so very fitting. This mode of operation perpetuates the fixed mindset in students. It says: once and done, nothing I can do to improve, this is the end. I’m not soft, and I am not saying that kids should always win, but if they don’t understand what they did wrong, how will they ever improve? Timely, critical, and specific feedback is necessary. Help students create action steps based on the feedback. If students are not drawing conclusions and making plans on their own, talk to them specifically about it – what is obvious to us is not always obvious to them. Some students need to be retaught their natural resilience to feedback (fall down while learning to walk, get back up and try again).

My big reflection question this week: what else can be done to help shift this paradigm? I have come up with a few action steps I plan to take personally:

  • Continue to promote books like Mindset with my colleagues. I plan to hold a book study in the spring.
  • My school is holding a “performance task and assessment” workshop for the Common Core this summer. Open an honest dialogue during this session about what quality assessment looks like and what occurs after.
  • Ask people what they are doing with their data.

Any other ideas? I’d love to hear them!

One thought on “#Mindset13: Data – The Floor or the Ceiling?

  1. What a great post. I love the connection with assessments. I once heard someone say that formative assessments are like a check up with your doctor while summative assessments are like an autopsy. A growth mindset is vital providing feedback that will support learning. After all we assessments should be FOR learning rather than of learning. Looking forward to future discussions with you!


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