At StandardsWork, we encourage the use of high-octane instructional practices that improve student performance and have been searching high and low for videos that can help both teachers and lay viewers understand what these practices look like in the classroom.
We hit the jackpot with an Expeditionary Learning video entitled “Austin’s Butterfly.” Watch it and you will be enchanted by the story of a 1st grader named Austin who perseveres through multiple drafts – six in all! – until he succeeds in drawing an accurate illustration of a Tiger Swallowtail butterfly. Videos about schooling don’t come more compelling than this.
Beneath the video’s sweetness is some important science about “informative academic feedback.” Informative academic feedback is feedback focused on strategies, effort, and the process of learning. It encourages students to see mistakes as opportunities for further learning, and learning as a process driven by their own efforts. For example, in this video, when Austin produces each of his drafts, he is encouraged to continue to do subsequent ones and given specific advice about how to improve the shape and pattern of the butterfly. It’s clear he is working in a classroom environment that motivates him to continue to perfect his work rather than settle for less – especially settling for less based on a conclusion that he’s just not capable of producing an accurate illustration.
The mindset that Austin demonstrates is the “growth mindset” made famous by Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck. In fact, Austin has developed what Dr. Dweck would term a “true growth mindset” because he is not being praised simply for effort, but is instead encouraged on the basis of outcomes. (Dr. Dweck has publicly lamented how teachers instill a “false growth mindset” when praise is given to students simply because they are trying, not because they are trying and progressing.)
The touchstone for the instructional practices StandardsWork recommends are the Institute of Education Sciences’ “practice guides.” For more on the power of informative academic feedback, refer to the second recommendation in this practice guide.