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Should How Teachers Develop ‘Grit' and ‘Growth Mindset’ Be Better Reflected in Teacher Evaluations?

Should How Teachers Develop ‘Grit’ and ‘Growth Mindset’ Be Better Reflected in Teacher Evaluations?

New research from Brown University researchers delves into the concept of teacher evaluations being judged on non-cognitive achievement as well as more achievement based on test scores.

“...the degree to which teachers are developing students’ abilities to apply knowledge in new contexts, learn on the job, and solve unstructured tasks through a combination of creativity, adaptability, and sustained effort remains an open question,” the working paper, Teaching for Tomorrow’s Economy? Teacher Effects on Complex Cognitive Skills and Social-Emotional Competencies, says.

This is because, the researchers say, teacher evaluations are largely based on the results of student test scores, therefore not adequately capturing how teachers affect "students’ performance on cognitively demanding open-ended tasks that provide more direct measures of the reasoning, inference and analytic skills required in the 21st century economy.”

The researchers used data from six large school districts and "administered two supplemental achievement tests with open-ended questions that were designed to be more direct measures of students’ critical thinking skills and problem-solving skills on open-ended tasks.”

The researchers then used this data in addition to already-existing data on student achievement scores and determined how teachers can effect students’ grit and growth mindset- with grit being defined as a non-cognitive based personality trait that is related to powerful motivation and with growth mindset being the mindset that hard work can improve basic abilities.

In other words, the researchers set out to analyze if teachers can have an impact on students’ desire and motivation to succeed.

After analyzing the data, the researchers concluded that teachers who improve student achievement through test scores do not necessarily also improve non-cognitive skills.

"We find that teacher effects on social-emotional measures are only weakly correlated with effects on both state standardized exams and exams testing students’ performance on complex tasks,” the paper says.

But teacher evaluations, they say, largely judge teachers based on students’ performance on exams.

”Current accountability and evaluation systems in education provide little incentive for teachers to focus on helping students develop the complex problem-solving skills and social- emotional competencies required in the fastest growing sectors of the economy,” the researchers say.

In their conclusion, the researchers hope that their work will lay the foundation for more research to better understand what can be done to help teachers develop non-cognitive skills that are not always assessed on state exams, which they determined do not do a good job at assessing students' non-cognitive skills. 

"Our data suggest that there are teachers who teach core academic subjects in ways that also develop students’ complex problem-solving skills and social-emotional competencies. We need to know what instructional practices allow these teachers to develop a wider range of students’ skills and competencies than are commonly assessed on state achievement tests.”

Read the full report.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor


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