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Are Teacher Evaluations and a Growth Mindset Mutually Exclusive?

Professional Growth

Are Teacher Evaluations and a Growth Mindset Mutually Exclusive?

We recently hosted a webinar about cultivating a growth mindset for teachers and staff. (You can watch that webinar here.) After the webinar, one attendee asked a fantastic question:

Wouldn’t the process of giving feedback, which is, really, criticizing through performance evaluation processes, conflict with the promotion of a growth mindset? Given what is known about the negative effects of performance evaluation, could it be claimed that these hierarchical and outdated management practices may in fact promote a fixed mindset in adults?

This is a great point, because it calls on educators to examine the practices that are designed around the process. Do your administrative practices reflect a fixed mindset, in which you approach evaluations as simply boxes to check off, work to complete?

Culture is essential to a growth mindset. If as a leader in your organization, you model a fixed mindset in how you approach evaluations, then yes, that could influence the mindset your teachers bring to their own practice. However, it is possible to take a formal process like performance evaluation and mold it into a growth-focused practice.

Two areas to consider:

1.     Goal-setting

As part of the formal evaluation process, what do your conversations with teachers around goal-setting look like? Do you make it a priority to not simply be aware of what a teacher’s goals may be, but why? How do you seek to understand those goals? And if they have, or have not, made progress toward those goals, do you understand the reasons for that as well? Are these conversations built into the process?

2.     Feedback

Yes, time seems to be in shorter supply than Bitcoin these days — and observing teachers in the classroom and providing feedback can be time-consuming. But it’s so vital — if you want to foster a growth mindset, one of the key ways to do that is through ongoing, formative, actionable feedback.

It may not be feasible for administrators to provide in-depth feedback to every teacher in their buildings, but feedback doesn’t always have to be given by the same person. What would it look like to develop a practice in your school or district of empowering peers to provide feedback? Whether through in-person observations or by equipping teachers to share videos of classroom practice, this can be a powerful way to support collaboration and growth — even if it’s an informal process that supports your formal evaluations.

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Jo Ann Hanrahan

Jo Ann Hanrahan has over 20 years of experience in K-12 education serving students, teachers, district and state education leaders. She started her career as a classroom teacher and then transitioned into administrative roles in the areas of professional learning, teacher (alternative) certification, curriculum, assessment, & instruction, and educator effectiveness. With a Master of Arts in Education and decades of diverse experiences, Jo Ann is currently pursuing her Ph.D. and serves Frontline Education as the Director of Research & Data Analysis.