How Can Online Assessments Promote a Growth Mindset?
  • How Can Online Assessments Promote a Growth Mindset?

    May 2nd, 2024

    A popular pastime among high school students is imitating their teachers, especially the strict ones, to make their friends laugh. Every aspect of a student’s surroundings leaves an impression on them. Teachers’ communication styles, punctuality, discipline, leniency, and the relationship they maintain with co-teachers, students, and their parents, are all part of the hidden curriculum that drives student growth, especially in K12 learning. It is widely believed that traditional education does not prepare learners for the “real world.” This is because of insufficient emphasis on managing the hidden curriculum, including adapting to online assessments, which are increasingly prevalent in modern education systems.

    The Hidden Curriculum of K12 Learning Explained

    The hidden curriculum is the unintended set of values, rules, and characteristics inculcated among learners through their interactions with the learning and assessment environment. These may include unwritten rules, beliefs, and unspoken outcomes achieved through K12 learning. These also include the unintended achievements and messages imbibed through assessments. However, when assessments are confined to evaluating skill or knowledge acquisition, they fail to assess what students learn beyond all that is explicitly taught.

    For instance, a surprise class test can teach them the importance of always being prepared. A group-based project may teach students how to collaborate, leverage the strengths of every team member, and even build leadership skills by encouraging them to plan deadlines for deliverables and coordinate with other team members.

    The Unintended Messages of Formative and Summative Assessments

    Traditional assessments often glorify rote learning and incentivize students to memorize. In fact, 5-minute multiple-choice questions focus on reproducing names, dates, and figures, rather than emphasizing analysis, critical thinking, or concept application. They are focused on ensuring that the learners “know” the answer. This might help achieve the short-term goal of getting a high score in formative assessments but fails to advance learners to achieving the end goal of understanding why a certain answer is correct, which can improve their performance in summative assessments.

    Standardized test formats and evaluation parameters leave no room for students to employ their creativity. The one-and-only right-answer approach may be easier for educators to evaluate, but it limits the student’s ability to think outside the box. For instance, literature cannot be interpreted in just one way. Perspectives and emotions differ with individual experiences and the social environment around the reader. Traditional assessments discourage students from exploring alternative perspectives. This hinders the development of higher-order thinking skills.

    Additionally, assessments create a fear of failure among learners. The added anxiety of being left behind in the competition and disappointing their teachers and parents eclipse the joy of learning. These may adversely affect their motivation and willingness to take learning risks. They learn to only “play safe” rather than explore beyond the curriculum. Students tend to remain confined to curricular learning and suppress their curiosities.

    Promoting a Growth Mindset Through Online Assessments

    A growth mindset is a trait that encourages students to learn. It strengthens their belief that their skills and knowledge can be developed. Harvard Business Review has once stated that those with a growth mindset are driven to “achieve more than those with a more fixed mindset.” This is because they focus on actively making efforts to learn and achieve their academic goals through improvement. It boosts their academic tenacity and inculcates a love for learning by transforming their thinking to view challenges as opportunities.

    A key aspect of building a growth mindset is incentivizing students to adopt a can-do approach to learning. Online assessments can play a pivotal role in emphasizing growth, instead of perfection. The results give the satisfaction of growing beyond the previous benchmark, achieving a little more than the last time.

    For this, assessments must enable students to respond to feedback. Learning should not terminate on feedback, declaring a certain number to define a student’s abilities. Learners should have the opportunity to improve and experiment. Formative assessments are a part of this. However, they focus on building only a limited set of skills. A growth mindset includes examining students on parameters such as creativity, ideation, and critical thinking. Fostering an environment that enables competition with the self rather than others is essential to building a growth mindset. 

    Online assessments can allow students to re-attempt exams rather than forcing them to accept their grades as final in the first attempt. Flexible grading strategies throughout the course can provide an environment where a growth mindset flourishes.

    The Digital Publisher’s Role in  Learning and Assessment

    Inculcating deeper learning habits among young learners starts with changing the narrative around exams. Current assessments limit K12 learning to being only a means of getting high scores on tests.

    To begin with, educational publishers must explore a variety of question formats, instead of sticking to standard formats. Question selection for digital publishing should be based on activating diverse mental faculties, and not just the content taught in the modules. Multiple difficulty levels, with enough challenges, can be crucial to developing critical thinking and problem-solving abilities.

    A Utah-based study involving mathematics and statistics students has proven that adopting positive and actionable feedback, instead of scoring-based rubrics in formative assessments, improved growth mindset among learners. Students had a greater understanding of the learning material because they had the opportunity to bridge the gaps through positive feedback.  In their reflection of the assessment experience, students also confirmed having lower anxiety.

    The study also proved that students learn to base their learning motivations on intrinsic factors, such as knowledge accumulation, and learning and assessment satisfaction, rather than external rewards. This can be instrumental in building curiosity and fostering lifelong learning habits among young learners. 

    The key to developing effective assessments is for publishers to collaborate with educators. This is because educators are closer to students and understand the needs of each demographic well. Leveraging assessments to develop a growth mindset and delve into the hidden curriculum requires a collaborative approach to developing engaging and effective assessments that are aligned with K12 learning objectives.

    Rethinking Formative and Summative Assessments

    Since assessments are a critical part of evaluating the hidden curriculum, refining tests can be instrumental in developing deeper learning skills, such as critical thinking, a growth mindset, and continued learning, while eliminating the fear of assessments. EdTech organizations must adopt cutting-edge tools that empower publishers to collaborate with teachers and prepare assessments that focus on offering a holistic assessment experience, reducing anxiety, and providing improvement opportunities. Speak to the experts at MagicBox™ to learn how the content authoring and assessment platform empowers both publishers and educators.