Once a term report card season comes, bringing both excitement and stress to students’ and teachers’ lives. How students view their report cards can be impacted by the type of mindset they have around their work. When a student reads their report card comments, you want to make sure that they won’t feel like their abilities are defined by their grades. But rather, that there’s room to grow with practice and reflection.
To encourage this, take the space on students’ report cards to not only give them feedback on their progress and celebrate their accomplishments, but also to model a growth mindset. According to Dr. Carol Dweck, who coined the term in her 2006 book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, students with a “growth mindset” believe their skills and talents can be developed through effort and persistence. Whereas those with a “fixed mindset” believe their success is determined by innate talent or intelligence. Research has shown that students with a growth mindset are better able to embrace challenges, persevere through setbacks, and overcome obstacles.
These abilities are important to learning both in and out of the classroom, making a growth mindset a valuable skill for students. Crafting meaningful report card comments that embody a growth mindset can take a great deal of time, but you don’t need to start fully from scratch. Take a look at these strategies and examples for inspiration.
Focus on students’ efforts and strategies
Report cards are a great moment to highlight examples of successful strategies which students have used to learn something new, since it can help build their confidence as a learner. It also underscores the importance that effort has in developing skills. Some examples of positive report card comments that emphasize effort are:
- Has worked hard and achieved _____.
- Great at working independently and asking for help when needed.
- Listens well and asks questions.
- Actively and enthusiastically participates in class.
- Pays great attention to ____ topic(s).
- Eager to continue learning and growing.
- Shows a keen interest in ______.
- Is persistent and stays on task when faced with challenges.
- Avidly working on ______.
- Has a positive attitude when encountering difficulties.
- Comes prepared for class.
By focusing your feedback on a student’s efforts and strategies, you can motivate students to adopt a growth mindset and encourage positive classroom behavior.
Give positive feedback on progress
Praising students’ progress is essential to inspiring them to continue developing. When improvement is acknowledged, students can feel their hard work has been seen and validated. It also helps students understand the goal of their learning is to progress and that success can be relative. Here are some general ways report card comments like this can be phrased:
- Has accomplished great growth in ____ subject area(s).
- Has improved tremendously in ______ area(s).
- Is making significant progress in _____.
- Is actively learning how to _____.
- Has shown substantial improvement in _____,
- Demonstrated considerable gains in ____.
- Has made notable progress to better understand ______.
- Has made wonderful strides in ______.
- Has been successful in learning how to _____.
- Proactively growing and advancing at _____.
- Has done a great job working on _____.
The more specific these comments are, the more impactful they can be. Consider adding a sentence or two describing the specific strategy your student took towards achieving growth in a particular subject area or skill set. In practice, this could sound like, “This quarter, [Name] has grown their lexile/reading level +50 by using the close reading strategy for all assigned articles in [learning platform].”
Another tip is to take notes on students’ progress throughout the school year. This can be helpful because so much happens in the classroom that it can be hard to remember the details come the end of term.
Frame challenges as opportunities for growth
Undoubtedly, there will be things your students struggle with or can improve. That is a valuable aspect of learning after all. Framing students’ challenges as an opportunity for growth can help them embrace and tackle any obstacles they may face. By doing so, you can help students understand setbacks are not stopping points, but reflection points where they can pause and strategize for future success. Some examples of report card comments that accomplish this are:
- Can still grow in _____ areas.
- Could be supported in improving _____.
- Can further develop _______ skills.
- Is learning (how) to ______.
- Can continue improving in _____.
- Is eager to learn _____ and can advance by ______.
- Will benefit from continuing to work on ______.
- Can strengthen their work in _____.
- Has an opportunity for growth in ______.
- Is still working on ______.
Following these remarks with tools that students and their caregivers can use to improve their skills and performance can be beneficial to students’ success. Knowing a potential path forward ensures that students see their potential for growth and feel the report card comments are positive and meaningful.
Use the word “yet”
There is always room for improvement, and students’ work and learning habits are no exception. Sometimes, it may be beneficial to be direct with students and their caregivers about what has yet to be accomplished in the classroom. Establishing places for improvement as something students have yet to do reinforces the idea that the task can be accomplished in the future. A couple ways the use of the word “yet” can be used in report card comments are:
- Has not learned ______ yet.
- Does not consistently ______ yet.
Again, adding specific strategies for growth after these comments can go a long way in showing students that improvement is always possible. Strategies also give students and parents concrete, actionable steps to take towards growth that yet again show students their future potential.
Vary your types of comments
Using a combination of these types of comments is ideal. It can be helpful to think of feedback like a sandwich, with positive comments being the soft frame that can help students digest the constructive feedback, or things they need to work on. Start with students’ efforts and improvements, discuss places for improvement in the middle, and end on a positive note.
With your hard work, knowledge of students, and teaching expertise, you’ll end up with meaningful report card comments full of encouragement for students to grow into a growth mindset.
Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. Random House.
Blackwell, L.S., Trzesniewski, K.H. and Dweck, C.S. (2007), Implicit Theories of Intelligence Predict Achievement Across an Adolescent Transition: A Longitudinal Study and an Intervention. Child Development, 78: 246-263. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8624.2007.00995.x