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Growth mindset and reflection

This is an excerpt from Building Character, Community, and a Growth Mindset in Physical Education With Web Resource by Leigh Anderson & Donald Glover.

Reflection is the link between goal setting and assessment; in fact, it plays a key role both in improving and in reaching goals. Even so, it is underappreciated and underused. We learn by doing, but we learn even more by doing and reflecting. Our experiences, successes, trials, and errors are our best teachers—if we take the time to reflect and learn from them. Consider, for example, the use of game film and other kinds of video documentation of performance. Many of the most successful athletes in the world note that video of themselves in action gives them a powerful tool for improvement. It enables them to take a step back, analyze what is going well and not so well, and make necessary changes. This is what being a reflective learner is all about!


At the same time, humansare, by nature, forward thinkers. We tend to think about what's next, what new content or skills need to be introduced so that our students or athletes continue to learn and improve. The mentality goes something like this: "The more we do, the more we practice, the more we are exposed to—the faster we learn and grow." It is through reflection, however, that our students and athletes can be most successful and their growth and learning most meaningful. Reflection also encourages students to invest in the process of their own learning because it actively involves them in their journey toward achievement and success.


Before expecting students to become reflective learners, however, we must teach them how to do so. At first, students often struggle with reflection because they have rarely been given the opportunity to engage in it. Instead, they are typically told what they are doing right or wrong and what they need to do in order to improve. If, instead, we help them develop a daily or weekly habit of reflection, they quickly gain the skills and appreciate the opportunity. Here are a few general reflection questions that can be integrated easily into most any situation:

  • What could I have done differently?
  • What improvements can I make?
  • What resources did I use to help me when things got difficult?
  • What is it that I am most proud of and would like to share with others?


When students and athletes develop a growth mindset, they improve more quickly and become much more motivated to reach their goals. They also recognize that the obstacles standing in their way are really only opportunities to learn and grow stronger. As a result, they seek out the resources needed to overcome challenges and solve problems. The way to help your students develop these skills is to facilitate their understanding of a growth mindset through reflection.

Learn more about Building Character, Community, and a Growth Mindset in Physical Education.