Shirley Clarke says tell students the truth if their work needs work.


active learning through formative assessment

I’m re-reading Shirley Clarke’s book first published in 2008 on active learning and formative assessment.

One of the points she makes in the book is the link between higher self-esteem and a growth mindset.

  • We need to show enthusiasm for challenging tasks and ensure failure is followed with celebration of what’s been learned.
  • With a growth mindset you tell students the truth – if they are underachieving this is not shameful but a sign about the need to work harder
  • Praise effort and achievement rather than ability or personal attribute
  • Avoid external rewards as they lead students to avoid challenge, create excuses for failures, give up and become upset when faced with difficulty
  • The brain is a learning muscle that need some practice

I’m still reading on but felt the need to write.

I want to say that this makes sense to me. We often and unconsciously tie self-esteem to winning and to results. We do this as educators and as parents – I still ask how did you go when my daughter or son walk in from a game – but I try to avoid did you win or lose as the first question.

A parent emailed me recently worried about their child self-esteem after some recent teacher feedback. While the issue is always more complex than what’s first said and relationships are always in play I did caution about linking their child’s self-esteem to their work but rather see it as a work in progress needing further effort. I then linked them in to an article on this mindset stuff and praise. I haven’t heard back yet.





This entry was posted in Feedback, parenting, Teaching, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Shirley Clarke says tell students the truth if their work needs work.

  1. Bill Gilpin says:

    Mark it is a joy to read your reflections on education and it reminds me to stop and reflect on my practice over here in the Maldives. I am flying out to one of the outer atolls this evening to work with principals and teachers on the new curriculum this weekend. Since the Doggies won the VFL flag last week the other GF on this weekend is of little interest! I have been using some ideas from Steve Dinham and his work ‘The Perils of Self Esteem Boosting’
    Dinham makes a powerful case why ‘…we also shouldn’t shy away from the concept of failure. Having failed and then succeeded at something can be a powerful driver for learning and self-esteem. On the other hand, when students have their self-esteem boosted in non-authentic ways, the air quickly comes out of the balloon when they hit the wide world and meet real-life challenges. In some ways taking a blow to one’s self-esteem is worse than never having much of it in the first place’. I like this idea as it also is contemplated by Hattie’s authentic mantra of ‘Where am I going? How am I going? Where to next?’
    Hope you are enjoying the school break and recharging the batteries, principals need to look after themselves.
    Cheers from the Sunny side of life in the Maldives!

    • mwalker says:

      Bill, great to hear from you again. Yes I hear you about Dinham’s work it’s interesting that so many people are reaching the same conclusions here. I think as a parent it’s hard to see your children fail and support them sometimes even when it seems unfair but that’s the tough part of parenting. Through these disappointments and ups and downs they see themselves as people capable of learning of surviving of growing better within themselves – that’s been my experience.

      I’m interested in your “new” role and the challenges so if you ever feel like sharing I’d be appreciative if you consider writing something for my blog. Keep well and speak soon.

Interested in your thoughts