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Growth Mindset: Personal Accountability and Reflection

with 33 comments

I am an adjunct faculty for several teacher education and educational technology programs.  I have been so for a few decades.  During that time I have noticed the changing nature of student behaviors and expectations regarding their class projects and assignments.  Students seem to expect perfect grades for not so perfect work.  I can predict that when I “mark down” a student, I will receive a complaint about that mark down (it happened just this evening) even with clear cut and concrete grading criteria like uses references to support ideas in blog posts, includes copyright available images.

I have been studying, blogging and presenting about the growth mindset (see The Educator with a Growth Mindset: A Staff Workshop).  When speaking of a growth mindset, a fixed mindset also needs to be discussed and described.  Fixed mindsets are associated with avoiding failure at all costs.  What I don’t see mentioned as part of a fixed, or maybe they be called toxic mindsets, are characteristics or attitudes like:

  • Mediocre is often good enough for me as long as I get the work done.
  • I expect my teachers to give me full credit for completion and submission of my work.  Quality is not a variable.
  • It is okay to just do “enough” work to minimally fulfill the requirements.
  • Good grades are what really matter to me.  I am not really interested in receiving qualitative feedback.

In response to these experiences, I developed a Personal Accountability and Reflection series of questions.  I will suggest that students use this “checklist” in order to develop and enhance their growth mindsets through personal accountability and reflection.

  • Did I work as hard as I could have?
  • Did I set and maintain high standards for myself?
  • Did I spend enough time to do quality work?
  • Did I regulate my procrastination, distractions, and temptations in order to complete my work?
  • Did I make good use of available resources?
  • Did I ask questions if I needed help?
  • Did I review and re-review my work for possible errors?
  • Did I consider best practices for similar work?
  • Is my work something for which I am proud – that I would proudly show to a large, global audience?

Growth Mindset_ Personal Accountability and Reflection

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

September 13, 2014 at 3:11 pm

33 Responses

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  1. I’d love to share this with my students in my online technology for teachers course. May I have permission to share it?


    September 13, 2014 at 3:45 pm

    • You bet – would love for you to share it. All my work is creative commons – I just ask for attribution. Let me know how it goes.

      Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

      September 13, 2014 at 3:51 pm

      • Jackie,
        Have you seen this post from the Mimeo blog called “The Growth Mindset: the Important Concept NOT Taught Under the Common Core” at In it they discuss work from Carol Dweck that is about the Academic Mindset, which includes Growth Mindset as well as Self-Efficacy, Sense of Belonging, and Relevance. It was new to me and this post made me think about it.

        Beth Dichter

        September 13, 2014 at 11:51 pm

      • Jackie, several teachers on my faculty would like to have the Personal Accountability poster. Is there a way to purchase/order these?

        Thank you,


        Elizabeth Evander

        October 29, 2015 at 4:01 pm

      • Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

        October 29, 2015 at 7:02 pm

  2. Thanks for this, Jackie! I think these questions could be unpacked over time to individually to discuss the metacognitive strategies/skills involved in each one…especially liking the one involving self-regulation.


    September 13, 2014 at 8:56 pm

  3. LOVE THIS!!! I will share it with my students. It’s amazing how students can have gone through an entire program and never be critiqued and when they finally experience they do not react well. I also reinforce with my students that if they are not struggling they are not really learning. Deep authentic learning is not always comfortable. It takes us out of our comfort zones where we transcend our perceived limits. I also recently experienced this with a student who said “I am a 4.0 student and I’ve never had “issues” with my work with any other professor.” I learned from you to set the bar high for myself and my students and foster the belief that there is ALWAYS room for growth and improvement. I agree that we have to help students focus more on learning than getting perfect scores.

    Virginia Padilla Vigil, Ph.D.

    September 13, 2014 at 11:24 pm

    • Gina – where is your blog post about this? 🙂 It would make a great blog post!

      Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

      September 14, 2014 at 3:23 pm

  4. Wow Jackie, as I just completed my second set of assignments for a new grad course I am in, this resonated. I have mixed feelings- I would love to just get credit because I did it, would love to get good grades because I am a nice person and all that- but the whole reason I am taking this path (at my age) is because I want to learn. I won’t learn by doing the minimum, or by not getting real feedback. Why bother with higher education if you don’t invest your time and energy?

    Maureen Tumenas

    September 13, 2014 at 11:31 pm

    • Sadly, I think, too often, students (in a grade granting sense) forget the ultimate goal – to learn!

      Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

      September 14, 2014 at 3:23 pm

  5. Hi Jackie – I’m really interested in your take on this. I understand that complacency, mediocrity, and excellence are all potential outcomes of this, but I haven’t consider them as being synonymous with a mindset. For example, is someone’s not making good use of available resources a sign of a fixed mindset? I’ve thought of it more as people who don’t believe in their capacity to grow won’t end up looking for help. Your view is a nice addition…certainly something that has me thinking about the nuances of this research’s implications. Thank you.

    David Hochheiser

    September 14, 2014 at 12:27 am

    • Hi David – I have expanded my view of what is NOT a growth mindset. As I noted, I think we also needed to consider what I believe are “toxic” mindsets – which prevent growth mindsets.

      Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

      September 14, 2014 at 3:20 pm

  6. I think sometimes it is may not be that the student is complaining, but rather needs clarification on the grading down so the student knows how to do better the next time 🙂

    Amanda Hatherly

    September 14, 2014 at 1:17 am

    • I agree if the learner asks it in the form of a question, “Can you explain what it is I needed to do? What is it that I missed or needed to do? I am confused” rather than a definitive statement, “I did meet the requirements” AND the learner knows that s/he did go through the reflective process as described in this post.

      Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

      September 14, 2014 at 3:18 pm

  7. Reblogged this on fbartoli_TrainingSpace.


    September 14, 2014 at 9:23 pm

  8. Must share!


    September 14, 2014 at 10:08 pm

  9. These are some extremely useful questions. I love the graphic. I’m not sure a fixed mindset is the main play with the mediocrity issue but it certainly could be a main reason.

    Gabrielle Marquette

    September 15, 2014 at 3:11 am

  10. I like to ask students if what they are about to hand in represents “their best work” and if I gave them an additional 24 hours, would they like to make it better? You should hear the responses. They vary from “you are serious” to which I say, “yes, this is serious work” to “Are you kidding?” to which I say, “No, I’m serious, do you want to do it?” Overwhelming response is yes, thanks, I can make it better.
    “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better. Maya Angelou

    Gary Gruber

    September 17, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    • Very cool! Good for you and the Maya Angelou quote is so applicable.

      Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

      September 17, 2014 at 3:46 pm

  11. I love the graphic but I worry that, while setting expectations, this cold be used as a way to transfer blame to students for what they didn’t do. It is also missing an essential part of the growth mindset: reflecting on what was challenging, what errors might have been made, what unfruitful paths might have been pursued and what was learned in the process. I think that needs to be reflected somehow.
    Also, I wonder if educators should be using something similar to assess their own impact in developing and executing the lesson or project. They might ask:

    Did I work as hard as I could have?
    Did I set and maintain high standards for myself and my students?
    Did I set clear expectations for high quality work?
    Did I ensure that all students were engaged in and motivated by the work?
    Did I provide the resources and scaffolding needed?
    Did I ask questions to see where students might have needed help?
    Did I assess and adjust based on what was working and what was not working?
    Did I consider best practices for similar work?
    Is my students’ work something for which I am proud – that I would proudly show to a large, global audience?
    If we want students to have a growth mindset we, as educators, must first have a growth mindset.

    David Harris

    September 19, 2014 at 3:12 am

    • Your response is great – I work with college students – adults and foresee this reflective process being used with high school and college students; folks who should be more responsible for their own learning. With that said, I love the questions you propose and if don’t mind would love to do a similar chart for educator reflection.

      Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

      September 19, 2014 at 12:45 pm

      • Please feel free to do so Jackie and share it back with me. Our organization, Teachers21, does a lot of work with leadership and culture in public school districts (mostly in MA right now). Helping teachers develop a growth mindset themselves, and be willing to assess and reflect on their own impact, is foundational to fostering a growth mindset in their students. I can certainly see us using these graphics in our work.

        David Harris

        September 19, 2014 at 9:49 pm

  12. Serendipity. This is precisely what I needed to re-learn and be reminded of in my work with failing readers online. Sometimes I’m amazed at how this happens. I’ll be using this to blend into the self-evaluations my students will be doing, and that I’ll be doing as well with my reading program for struggling readers. Thank you for this. Great work.

    Paula Bright

    April 14, 2015 at 3:08 am

  13. Hi Jackie, I’d love to print a poster of this to put up in my classroom. Would you happen to have this in a high-def file? preferably JPEG or PDF?

    Peter Lin

    June 5, 2015 at 1:47 am

    • I uploaded a JPG to the blog – what do you get when you download the image on the computer? By the way, thanks for your interest.

      Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

      June 5, 2015 at 1:26 pm

  14. Jackie, I am doing a PD workshop with highschool teachers and have an hour. Wondering if you have a reflection quiz for them to participate in? I really want this to be a cooperative and active session. Any other suggestions would be most welcomed.

    Sue Defreyne Student System Achievement Teacher

    October 18, 2015 at 9:09 pm

  15. Hi Jackie, I would like your consent to use the “Growth Mindset” piktochart as a prompt stimuli for student led interviews at my school. This would require photocopying and distributing it to my staff. Of course I will acknowledge its source. Is this okay?



    April 15, 2016 at 8:50 pm

    • yes – that is fine. All my work is creative commons. I just want credit.

      Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

      April 15, 2016 at 10:11 pm

  16. Jackie, I am a newish adjunct faculty member teaching undergraduates. My fall class is a writing intensive class (students have two assignments where they submit a draft; get feedback and revise). I had the idea of having students do some kind of self-reflection (did they spend enough time on research, on writing on proofreading, etc) and then I came across your blog and this post in particular. May I use this in class? And I plan to build a self-assessment survey for students that I want to do a few times throughout the semester to help students appreciate the time needed for good writing. I just subscribed to your blog and look forward to reading more.

    Michele Salomon

    August 4, 2020 at 12:22 pm

    • Congrats – being a faculty member is a great experience. You are more than welcome to use my work – I only ask that you credit me.

      Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

      August 4, 2020 at 4:44 pm

  17. Hi Jackie! I love the reflective questions in your picture chart and may I please ask your permission to use it for a class, I will definitely credit your work. Thanks


    August 11, 2021 at 7:39 am

    • Absolutely – happy you find it useful!

      Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

      August 15, 2021 at 2:09 pm

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