Questions about feedback

Answer to "What are mindsets and goal orientation and how do they influence feedback?"

Mindset refers to people’s characteristics and assumptions which direct their behaviour and choices. In the educational context, Carol Dweck has distinguished two mindsets on how learner’s respond to failure during their learning: fixed and growth mindset. The mindset also impacts the way learner react to feedback.

  • Learners with a fixed mindset believe that their basic abilities, intelligence, talents, are just fixed traits (born with it) and that success is driven by innate ability.

    • Their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb. They perceive failure as a negative statement of their abilities. Thus, they tend to reject constructive feedback.

  • Learners with a growth mindset believe that success results from hard work, learning, training, and ongoing learning, and failure is viewed as a trigger for more learning.

    • They engage in feedback-seeking, are more receptive to constructive feedback, and incorporate feedback into daily performance.

Teachers can stimulate learners to develop a growth mindset by stimulating feedback-seeking behaviour. Learners can also vary in their goal orientation when asking for feedback. Those with a performance goal orientation seek feedback because they want to showcase their clinical competence and receive positive judgements, thus they avoid situations where they anticipate negative judgements. Learners with a learning goal orientation want to improve their knowledge and skills with the aim of developing their clinical competence and growing as a professional. They are more open-minded when receiving feedback. It is important to promote and encourage a learning goal orientation among clinical learners as they develop into independent and reflective practitioners.

A growth mindset and learning goal orientation can be stimulated by teachers and institutions in the following ways:

  • Using language that focuses on performance (e.g. a teacher might say, “it might be easier to feel an enlarged liver or recognise unstable asthma patients if you used the following technique”) rather than words that simply praise or judge (e.g. “excellent job, poor patient communication”).

  • Establishing a learner-centred learning culture, focussing on competence and mastery of tasks rather than self-image

  • Encouraging ongoing feedback seeking

  • Fostering educational alliances between learners and teachers with regular performance-based feedback targetting learner growth

  • Creating opportunities for longitudinal teacher-learner relationships

  • Normalising exchange of constructive feedback

  • Providing training in receiving and assimilating feedback into performance

  • Prioritising professional development at all levels

  • Communicating that professionals at all levels are expected to have strengths as well as areas for improvement



Dweck, C. S. (1991) ‘Self-theories and goals: Their role in motivation, personality, and development’, in Nebraska symposium on motivation, pp. 199–235.

Ramani, S., Könings, K. D., Ginsburg, S. and van der Vleuten, C. P. M. (2018) ‘Twelve tips to promote a feedback culture with a growth mind-set: Swinging the feedback pendulum from recipes to relationships’, Medical Teacher, 0(0), pp. 1–7.

VandeWalle, D., Cron, W. L. and Slocum Jr., J. W. (2001) ‘The role of goal orientation following performance feedback.’, Journal of Applied Psychology, 86(4), pp. 629–640.