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A Pilot Study Of Teachers’ Feedback According To Carol Dweck's Mindset Theory

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DOI: 10.15405/epiceepsy.20111.29
11th ICEEPSY 2020
The International Conference on Education and Educational Psychology
Marie Herynková (a)*, Kateřina Drašnarová (b), Karolína Očenášková (b), Alena Perglerová (b),
Silvie Urbanová (b)
*Corresponding author
(a) Faculty of Education, University of Hradec Králové, Rokitanského 62, Hradec Králové, Czech Republic. E-mail:
(b) Faculty of Education, University of Hradec Králové, Hradec Králové, Czech Republic.
Psychologist Carol Dweck distinguishes fixed and growth mindset based on people’s belief that intelligence
is fixed or malleable, respectively. Conducted studies show that fostering growth mindset can improve
student’s motivation and educational achievement. One of the main ways in which teachers can encourage
the growth mindset is a way of giving feedback. The purpose of the current study is to assess the level of
teachers´ mindset according to the Mindset theory and detect whether teachers mindset is related to the way
of giving feedback, particularly in response to flawless and fast student performance. Dweck Mindset
Instrument (DMI) supplemented with additional questions was electronically administered to collect a set
of data. The research group consisted of kindergarten, primary and secondary school teachers (N = 175).
The results show that teachers most often responded to a flawless and fast performance of a pupil with a
generally positive assessment, positive assessment of abilities, reactions in the spirit of growth mindset,
keeping pace with other students, describing or asking questions. No relationship was found between the
mindset of teachers and the way they respond to the pupil's flawless and fast performance.
© 2020 Published by European Publisher.
Keywords: Feedback, growth vs. fixed mindset, teachers.
Corresponding Author: Marie Herynková
Selection and peer-review under responsibility of the Organizing Committee of the conference
1. Introduction
American psychologist Carol Dweck working at Stanford University brought scientific evidence
showing that behind the success are not only our skills and talent but also our approach to them. How we
perceive our abilities play a key role in our motivation and success (Blackwell et al., 2007; Dweck, 2015b;
McCutchen et al., 2016). In her theory of mindset, she defines two types of approaches: growth and fixed
mindset (Dweck, 1986). People who believe that intelligence and talent can be developed (growth mindset)
are more successful than people who trust that intelligence and talent is something given and done (fixed
mindset). According to the findings of Dweck and Molden (2018), the distribution of fixed and growth
mindset is evenly represented in the population. Testing of children and adults shows that about 40% of
people tend to endorse a fixed mindset, and about 40% tend to endorse a growth mindset, and about 20%
are undecided. A significantly lower percentage of people with a fixed mindset (about 10%) and a higher
percentage of people with a growth mindset (around 75%) were found in research among health students
(Calo et al., 2019) or research among Turkish students - 18% of people with a fixed mindset and 64% of
people with a growth mindset (Altunel, 2019). A growth mindset can be fostered through in-school
(Blackwell et al., 2007; Schmidt et al., 2017) or online (Paunesku et al., 2015) interventions in which
children learn that intelligence can be developed over time through hard work, learning strategies, and help
from others (Rattan et al., 2015). Currently, other psychological interventions are being developed aimed
at changing the fixed mindset to growth and verifying their effectiveness (Yeager et al., 2016).
Dweck (2008, 2015a, 2015b) explored how parents and teachers influence their children's mindset
through words and actions. They can lead them in the spirit of a fixed mindset that says: You have the
qualities once given (such as a degree of talent) and I evaluate them. The second counterpoint is leadership
in the spirit of a growth-oriented mind bearing the message: You are a person who is evolving, and I am
interested in your development. Great teachers believe in developing intellect and talent and the learning
process fascinates them. Teachers create an atmosphere of trust in class, not evaluation. They want to
develop and teach their students, not assess the level of their intelligence and talent. He praises the effort,
perseverance, the use of various strategies, progress, the desire not to give up and the ability to learn from
failure. On the contrary, the praise of children's intelligence and talent harms their motivation and
performance. Children can be convinced that if they succeed, they are smart, and if they fail, then they are
silly. A fixed mindset leads to avoiding difficult tasks, resistance to failure, proving one's uniqueness,
surrounding oneself with less successful ones, comparing oneself with others.
In a series of studies, Mueller and Dweck (1998) deliberately gave children three types of assessments
to determine how the particular valuations would affect their performance. Some children were praised for
their intelligence ("That’s a high score; you must be smart at these problems"). Other children received
praise that focused more on process rather than ability („That’s a high score; you must have worked hard
at these problems “) or neutral praise („That’s a high score “). Children praised for their intelligence tended
to choose mainly the tasks they were able to handle, while children praised for their efforts chose tasks in
which they could learn something new. The neutral praise about the work ("That's a high score") in the
control group was similar to the performance-oriented praise (e.g. "good job") used by Butler (1987).
Regarding positive achievement motivation, the best results were achieved by children praised for their
efforts, followed by the control group praised for an outcome or a product nd the worst results were detected
at a group of children praised for ability.
Corresponding Author: Marie Herynková
Selection and peer-review under responsibility of the Organizing Committee of the conference
Dweck (2015b) further draws attention to the risk of praise for speed and perfection, as speed and
flawlessness are the enemies of more demanding learning. Pupils may think, I'm smart when I'm fast and I
don't make mistakes, I'd rather not do anything difficult" (p. 196). Dweck (2015b) recommends responding
to a student's flawless and quick performance as follows: “I guess it was too easy. Sorry, I wasted your
time. Let's embark on a task where you can learn something (p. 196).
2. Problem statement
Teachers and parents greatly influence children's mindset. One of the main tools of influencing is
providing feedback. Some teachers support the growth mindset of students with their feedback, others a
fixed mindset. What influences the way teachers provide feedback? Are they influenced by their
upbringing, pedagogical education and practice, the current mood, or by their mindset? It is largely unclear
whether teachers´ mindset influences the feedback they provide.
3. Research Questions
We operationalized these goals into the following research questions:
Question 1: How do teachers react to flawless and fast student´s performance?
Question 2: Is there a relationship between teachers´ mindset and the way they provide feedback to
4. Purpose of the Study
The study aims are to assess the level of teachers´ mindset according to the Mindset theory and test
whether teachers mindset is related to the way of giving feedback, particularly in response to flawless and
fast student performance.
5. Research methods
5.1. Instruments
The recruited teachers completed an online survey consisting of the questionnaire of the American
psychologist Carol Dweck (Dweck Mindset Instrument, DMI) supplemented with additional quantitative
and qualitative questions. Dweck Mindset Instrument consists of 16 items that are rated on a 6-point Likert
scale with 1 = strongly agree to 6 = strongly disagree.
The results presented in this paper relate to 5 quantitative questions (determining gender, age, length
of practice, type of school, knowledge of Carol Dweck´s book Mindset) and 1 qualitative question (asking
for a response to a pupil's flawless and rapid performance). The qualitative question asking about the
feedback that teachers give students was as follows: The student will complete the task you have given
quickly and without any mistake (e.g. he/she will calculate a mathematical example). What would you
usually say in such a situation?
Corresponding Author: Marie Herynková
Selection and peer-review under responsibility of the Organizing Committee of the conference
5.2 Procedure and research sample
The authors present an empirical study with mixed research design, the data were provided by a one-
time questionnaire survey. The questionnaire was distributed through e-mail addresses and Facebook
groups for teachers. The research group consisted of 175 people aged 20 to 60 years (M = 41.86; SD =
11.23), who currently work as teachers with a length of practice of 1 to 40 years (M = 15.89; SD = 12.13).
The sample included 59 teachers working in kindergarten (33.7%), 66 teachers working in primary school
(37.7%), 21 teachers working in lower-secondary school (12.0%), 15 teachers working at secondary schools
(8.6%) and 14 teachers working in several types of schools at the same time, e.g. primary and secondary
schools (8.0%). In terms of gender, there were 166 women (94.9%) and 9 men (5, 1%). As for the
knowledge of Carol Dweck´s theory, only two respondents read her book Mindset, and one respondent read
the articles and saw a video on The remaining 172 respondents (98.3%) probably do not know
Carol Dweck´s Mindset theory.
6. Findings
6.1. Growth and fixed mindset of teachers
The level of growth and fixed mindset was measured by a 16-item Dweck Mindset Instrument
(DMI). The questionnaire was filled in by 175 people. The results show (see Table 1) that 20.6% of teachers
have a fixed mindset (DMI score between 1.0 - 3.0), perceiving intelligence and talent as something given
and unchanging, which they either have or do not have. Another 22.9% of teachers have a growth mindset
(DMI score between 4.0 - 6.0), perceiving intelligence and talent as something that can be significantly
changed through effort and learning. The remaining 56.6% of teachers were identified as undecided (DMI
score between 3.1 - 3.9).
Table 01. The percentage of teachers with growth or fixed mindset, and those who were identified as
Number of Participants
Mindset Type
6.2. Analysis of teachers' feedback on flawless and fast student performance
Teachers' feedback was processed qualitatively using the method of constant comparison.
Subsequently, frequency analysis was used to indicate the frequency of respondents' answers to the
individual categories created. The following seven categories emerged:
1. General positive evaluation (32.6%) - most often the words "excellent" or "good work"
2. Positive assessment of abilities (18,9 %) supports fixed mindset (eg. "You clever")
3. The reaction in the spirit of growth mindset (13.7%) - appreciation of effort, preparation or
progress, setting a more difficult example
4. Keep pace with other students (12.6%) - wait for others, giving an example of the same difficulty;
a call to check everything again; help another classmate
Corresponding Author: Marie Herynková
Selection and peer-review under responsibility of the Organizing Committee of the conference
5. Description (9.1%) - a reaction "I see that you have everything done" or "you solved the task
quickly and correctly"
6. Asking a question/questions (6.9%) - respondents asked about the pupils' feelings or whether they
enjoyed the task
7. Isolated reactions (6.2%)
6.3. The relationship between growth and fixed mindset and teacher feedback
We investigated whether the respondents, divided into individual categories according to the
methods of giving feedback, differed from each other in the level of mindset (measured by the Dweck
Mindset Instrument). Due to the fulfilment of the condition of homogeneity of variances for the variable
mindset (F = 0.990; p = 0.426), a parametric ANOVA test was chosen to determine the existence of
differences between the groups divided according to the methods of feedback administration. There was no
statistically significant difference in the level of mindset (F = 0.668; p = 0.648) between the different groups
of respondents divided according to the methods of giving feedback to students.
7. Discussion
In this subchapter, we will deal with the interpretation of the obtained results concerning the research
questions and possible limits of the research. According to the findings of Dweck and Molden (2018), the
distribution of fixed and growth settings of the mind is evenly represented in the population. Testing of
children and adults shows that about 40% of people tend to endorse a fixed mindset, and about 40% tend
to endorse a growth mindset, and about 20% are undecided. A significantly lower percentage of people
with a fixed setting (about 10%) and a higher percentage of people with a growth setting (around 75%)
were found in research among Australian health students (Calo et al., 2019). Similarly, the research among
Turkish students presented 18% of people with a fixed setting mindset and 64% of people with a growth
mindset (Altunel, 2019). In our research group of teachers, there were identified only 21% of teachers with
a fixed setting, 23% of teachers with a growth setting, and 56% of teachers were detected as undecided.
Our results, as well as the research results of Calo et al. (2019) or the results of the Altunel (2019) research,
do not agree with the findings of Dweck and Molden (2018). There is a possibility that this is due to the
specificity of our research files (health students, teachers) or the use of a measuring tool that is not
standardized for individual nationalities.
We found the answer to the first research question asking about the reaction of teachers to the fast
and flawless performance of the student in the form of six categories using the method of constant
comparison. Teachers responded with a generally positive assessment, positive assessment of abilities,
reactions in the spirit of growth thinking, keeping pace with other students, describing or asking questions.
A large number of positive reactions to the fast and flawless performance of the student indicates that
teachers are happy for this performance. The question is whether they are aware of the risk of praising the
flawless and fast performance. As Dweck (2015b) points out, a student can begin to avoid difficult tasks
and consequently his/her ability to face challenges and overall willingness to learn something new
Corresponding Author: Marie Herynková
Selection and peer-review under responsibility of the Organizing Committee of the conference
The second research question concerned the relationship between teachers‘ mindset and the way
they provide feedback to students. There was no statistically significant difference in the level of mindset
between the different groups of respondents divided according to the methods of giving feedback to
students. This may mean that there is no relationship. Teachers evaluate using words like you are
handy/smart because they try to encourage the student's motivation and appetite for learning. They do not
realize that it can be harmful to students. Even if they have a high growth setting themselves, they pass the
evaluation in a fixed spirit. Conversely, fixed mindset teachers can appreciate the effort. The way of
providing feedback can be influenced by education, upbringing, practice, or something completely different
from the teacher's mindset. Another possible explanation of our research outcome is that the relationship is
present, however, it has not been proven due to the data collection method. The method of providing
feedback on the flawless and fast performance of the pupil/student was determined only by a questionnaire
survey, based on which a typology was created. The answers in the questionnaires were usually brief, and
it was not always possible to fully understand the exact meaning and the relationship of particular aspects.
At the same time, there can be a difference in what the respondent thinks he/she would say in a given
situation and what he/she would say in practice during class. It is likely that by observing teachers in
everyday practice in response to a flawless and rapid performance of a student, we would obtain more valid
data. We, therefore, recommend verifying further research. Other limitations of our study include the lack
of representativeness of the research set related to occasional data collection.
8. Conclusion
The results show that the most common teacher‘s feedback on a student's flawless and fast
performance includes a generally positive assessment, a positive assessment of abilities and reactions
reflecting the growth thinking. Among our respondents, the way of providing feedback corresponded
mostly to performance-oriented praise (e.g. „good job “) used by Butler (1987) or to the fixed mindset.
Teachers´ feedback according to the growth mindset was represented only to a small extent, which is in
agreement with the limited knowledge of Carol Dweck's Mindset theory among the surveyed teachers. The
mindset is influenced by what parents and teachers tell children. We assumed that the way teachers provide
feedback is based on their settings. However, no relationship was found between the measured level of
fixed and growth mindset of teachers and their way of giving feedback. Given the impact and importance
of teacher´s feedback, we need to better understand why teachers provide a particular type of feedback to
This paper was supported by the Specific Research of the Faculty of Education, the University of
Hradec Kralove 2020, No: 2104, entitled: Feedback in Teaching Communication at the First Stage of
Primary School.
Altunel, İ. (2019). Bridging the Gap: A Study on the Relationship between Mindset and Foreign Language
Anxiety. International Online Journal of Education and Teaching, 6(3), 690-705.
Corresponding Author: Marie Herynková
Selection and peer-review under responsibility of the Organizing Committee of the conference
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ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
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