It is worth noting the shift in terminology used when considering how pupil progression has been measured over the years in order to contextualise it currently. One journal rightly asks: ‘What is assessment? To many noneducators, the term is synonymous with “test” or “quiz”’ (Brendefur, Strother, Rich and Appleton, 2016, p.174). The Oxford English Dictionary (2012) defines assessment as ‘the action of assessing someone or something’, whereas one definition of test includes ‘an event or situation that reveals the strength or quality of someone or something by putting them under strain’.
While summative assessment and formative assessment (FA) are both concurrently used within the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE), the value placed on FA as a support mechanism for teaching and learning seem greater (DiBello & Stout, 2007). Emphasising the appeal of FA as a positive and ongoing process, Tovani concludes: ‘summative assessment is like an autopsy, formative assessment is the wellness check-up’ (Tovani, as cited by Wilhelm, 2013, p.2). The positive effects associated with FA as formative feedback feeds into the analogy by Tovani that FA is a ‘wellness check-up’, suggesting that any ‘negative’ behaviours can be manipulated and ultimately prevented with frequent FA.
Similarly, the concept of ‘growth mindset’ is one which promotes or ‘prioritises’ positivity in order to challenge a ‘fixed mindset’; one which assumes intelligence, creativity and character is predetermined. Carol Dweck, who coined the terms ‘fixed mindset’ and ‘growth mindset’, holds the belief that a higher level of achievement can be reached if ‘students believe that their intellectual ability is something they can develop through effort and education’ (Dweck, 2007). Importantly, Dweck notes that one of the successes of growth mindset is that it relies on the praise of pupil effort, known as ‘process praise’, as opposed to the praise of pupil intelligence. Dweck claims that praising pupils for intelligence leads only to a fixed mindset, whereas praising pupils for effort ‘fosters hardy motivation’ (Dweck, 2007).
Ultimately, formative feedback and growth mindset are two educational concepts that acknowledge the ‘process’, with both concepts designed to work in the long term. While the effectiveness of both can prove a time consuming and often complex process that relies heavily on planning and mutual investment from teachers and pupils, Dweck reiterates that it is the process itself where progress is made.
The aim of this enquiry was to discover the impact of formative feedback in a growth mindset context on pupils’ attitudes and motivation.