A Growth Mindset for Teaching and Learning

Susan Noble, Program Learning Specialist, Education Centre - Traditional assessment approaches to instruction and assessment “involve teaching some given material, and then, at the end of teaching, working out who hasn’t learned it” (Leahy, Lyon, Thompson & William, 2005, p. 1). Some parents in our school communities have expectations for the assessment of their children’s learning based on their own school experiences. They await the marked worksheets, quizzes and spelling tests to be brought home, wrought with percentages and scores.

“It’s time we pushed aside our old ways of thinking and took a fresh look at how we report student achievement” (Schimmer, 2016, p. 3). The shift in focus from assessment of learning to assessment for learning promotes conversations among teachers and leaders about learning, rather than solely on the practice of teaching itself. In other words, instead of placing the focus entirely on the efforts of teachers, there is greater emphasis on what students are getting out of learning processes.

In Rocky View Schools (RVS), this takes place when teachers use formative assessment practices, including digital reporting through the PowerSchool portal paired with digital portfolios in myBlueprint, to document student growth and provide evidence of areas requiring more attention. The authentic feedback provided to students through ongoing formative assessment helps them to take the reins and grow based on their own successes and learning goals, while guiding teachers as they make decisions about the next steps in instruction for students. This style of communication supports learners by providing more specific information about successes and areas for further focus than is possible with a grade or score.

Schimmer (2016) noted that many assessments can be used to guide instruction as opposed to grading; “learning can and does happen in the absence of grades and scores” (p. 17). Bearing these considerations in mind, RVS schools highlight data-driven assessment practices to benefit teaching and learning with teachers, students and parents. Rather than only determining a child’s understanding using event-based assessments like tests, quizzes, and presentations, teachers also include other authentic daily instances as evidence of learning. Examples include conversations with students, observations of their work and products of their learning. In turn, students, teachers, and parents can create greater context and dialogue together about building students’ understanding of learning outcomes rather than focusing on a grade or a score. 

As we continue to develop the culture of assessment in Rocky View Schools, it is vital that stakeholders work together to build shared understanding of the purpose of assessment and the multiple avenues of information that can be considered in measuring student progress. Herein lies the impetus to work with the school community to foster a climate for learning, with foundations of trust and collaboration at all levels for student success. This requires clear learning targets, and clear communication with students and parents about where students are living in their learning, where they are headed and how they will be supported in getting there. Focusing on common goals for teachers and students as learners may assist schools in identifying context-specific strategies that will promote school communities of growth-minded individuals and continuous learning.


Leahy, S., Lyon, C., Thompson, M., & William, D. (2005). Classroom assessment: Minute by minute, day by day, Educational Leadership. 63(3), 19-24.

Schimmer, T. (2016). Grading from the inside out: Bringing accuracy to student assessment through a standards-based mindset. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.