Fixing Students' Fixed Mindsets: Paving the Way for Meaningful Assessment
18 Legal Writing the Journal of the Legal Writing Institute 39 (2012)
48 Pages Posted: 24 Aug 2011 Last revised: 15 Oct 2013
Date Written: August 10, 2011
For decades law professors have remained perplexed about students’ responses to the feedback they give. Some students crave constructive criticism and use it to improve their legal analysis and skills. Other students, however, when given the same feedback react defensively, reject the professor’s suggestions and claim that the assessment was unfair. To address this problem, scholarship has focused on developing different ways to give feedback. But no one has explained the underlying cause of why students respond to feedback so diversely.
The explanation of why some students respond well to feedback when others don’t lies in decades of established research in educational psychology. Students respond to feedback in different, yet predictable ways. Students’ reactions to feedback are guided by the implicit beliefs they hold about intelligence - their mindset.
Some students have a fixed mindset. They believe that intelligence is a fixed trait and interpret critical feedback as a negative judgment about their intelligence. Other students have an incremental mindset. They believe that intelligence is malleable and see critical feedback as a tool to get smarter. Based on this research, this article explains how students’ mindsets affect their responses to feedback. This article also suggests ways that law professors can induce an incremental mindset in students and increase the likelihood of students using feedback in adaptive ways.
Keywords: feedback, assessment, mindset, self-efficacy, performance, LSAT, formative assessment, summative assessment, writing, legal writing, learning
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