Are you learning the slow way? 6 Steps and 4 Elements to PowerUp Learning & Performance

There ae 6 steps and 4 elements to powerup to a better self.

Playing it safe, never taking learning & performance risks, is the slow way to learn. Brain-wise, you learn more from failure than from success. And you learn even more when you approach failure with a positive attitude. By taking risks, you not only learn more, but attempt more as well. This combination speeds up our learning process.  And the bonus is that you can use the PowerUp Assessment approach with any type of learning or performance to rapidly grow your performance power.

Are You Learning the Slow Way?

Whether you think you can or think you can’t—you are right.  — Henry Ford

Fixed or Growth Mindset?

Are you embarrassed to make mistakes in front of others? Do you believe you can’t increase your IQ? Effort won’t make you smarter? There are things you just weren’t born to learn? If so, you have a fixed mindset.

You’re not alone.

A majority of people have a fixed mindset. They don’t believe in their innate ability to learn and grow and they hate to fail. Fixed-mindsetters fear failure because it demonstrates their weaknesses. “Don’t try anything with too much risk,” they tell themselves. “Better to play it safe, work easier problems.”

The fixed-mindsetters learn in small increments, and make slow, unsteady progress compared to what is possible.

On the other hand, people who believe that every mistake is an opportunity to learn have a growth mindset. Many articles have been written about developing a growth mindset to overcome low to slow learning. Growth mindsetters take bigger risks, and welcome mistakes as an opportunity to learn. Taking bigger risks, within a range, leads to faster learning.

Mindset Affects Brain Growth

Our brains grow the least from success. They grow more from mistakes. They grow even more with a growth mindset. The following graphic depicts the outcome of imaging studies on brain growth, mindset, and mistakes. When you make mistakes, and have a growth mindset, you’re on the path to higher brain growth. When you have a growth mindset and don’t make a mistake, the default is you’ll have lower brain growth, but if you look for areas of improvement through a PowerUp, you can lift your brain growth higher.


Mindset profoundly affects our brain growth. Mistakes with a growth mindset cause the most growth.
Effect of mistakes and mindset on brain growth.


Your brain learns the most when you take risks, make mistakes, give your best effort, and especially when you combine everything in this post: effort, risk, mistakes, growth mindset, and PowerUp assessment. The combined approach will shift you from slow learning to PowerUp speed.

6 Steps and 4 Elements to PowerUp Your Learning & Performance

I introduced the need for PowerUp Assessment and Self-PowerUp in my post Educational Vampires. The diagram below depicts the six steps you need to take.

Powerup assessment is a 6 step, repeatable process for self-improvement to move from slow to fast progress learning and performing.

Step1 – Trust

A PowerUp assessment requires one to two people. A one-person PowerUp is a Self-PowerUp and I will discuss it in a future post. A mentor and a performer form the two-person PowerUp I describe in this post.

The two-person power-up depends on trust between the performer and mentor. I use the word performer because any performance, including learning, may be improved with a PowerUp. The two establish trust by never judging and always looking to help. In the beginning, the performer selects the mentor based on the belief the mentor will make a good assessor. Through the six-step process, further trust is earned. National Champion Coach, Lou Holtz, summarized trust building this way:

I follow three rules: Do the right thing, do the best you can, and always show people you care. – Lou Holtz

I’ll have more to say about mentor criteria in a future post.

Step 2 – Scope

A PowerUp can be done on any aspect of performance. For example, you may ask first for a PowerUp on your outline. Then change scope to your opening paragraph. Then, cover a few pages of your writing to check paragraph structure and transitions.  You can more easily respond to the feedback when it’s limited. When you’ve finished a the smaller scope assessments, ask for a PowerUp on the entire paper. For wider scope, the assessor may work hard to assess. If you build up to the full assessment, then you’ll save yourself and your assessor time, because you will finish the entire work with higher quality and need fewer revisions overall. Why write ten pages with a weak opening paragraph, when you could simply revise that and then write ten better pages?

Step 3 – Criteria

If the criteria are not given to you ahead of time, you and your assessor come up with criteria to measure the quality of your performance. Evaluation and PowerUp assessment both measure quality, but the PowerUp uses the measures to determine where improvements are and aren’t needed.

Don’t complicate your criteria. Your mentor/assessor will help with this. You only need to measure the aspects of your work that are within the scope of the assessment. For example, an introductory section of your research paper could be measured as in the following:

Scope: Introduction to the Research Paper

Criterion Effective Introduction that Motivates and Guides the Reader
Aspect Measurement Scale
little room to improve could improve need to improve need to add
problem described
problem important
solution briefly described
logical structure

The assessor will measure each aspect using the scale during the analyze step. And report them. Note that the measurements are on the work, not a statement about the person, which is important to develop “personal objectivity” or understanding that you are not your work. Personal objectivity will allow you to assess your work without being judgmental about yourself.

Step 4 – Perform & Analyze

The performer does an activity  to produce a performance. The performance is analyzed by the assessor. Continuing the example PowerUp assessment on the introduction of a research paper,  the performer (in this case the writer) completes the introduction. The assessor analyzes the work using the elements of feedback (shown below) as the guide, starting with “measures.”

Assessment feedback contains 4 elements that are critical to ending slow learning and improving future performance.
The 4 Elements of PowerUp Feedback


The assessor uses the scope to limit the assessment, and for each aspect of the criterion chooses a point (a-d) of the scale. Please see the example below.

Step 5- Feedback

Feedback is a gift. Ideas are the currency of our next success. Let people see you value both feedback and ideas. – Jim Trinka and Les Wallace

The feedback you get from a trusted assessor is meant to help you improve. Listen to the words with an open mind. Do you agree with the measurement? Is there evidence to support it? If not, ask for an example, if you think it will be helpful. Do you understand the recommendations? Again, ask whichever questions you need to clarify. The questions won’t bother a true assessor as he or she wants you to benefit from the feedback. Pay attention to their insights, too. This is what you and the experience have contributed back to the assessor.

As the quote above says, feedback is a gift. Show your gratitude to your assessors. Thank them for their assessments and tell them, genuinely, how their work has been helpful to you.

To stay in the spirit of PowerUp, give your assessor an assessment of his or her assessment, identifying strengths, opportunities, and the insights you gained. We’ll discuss criteria you can use in a future post.

As the feedback is given, the learner also gives an assessment of the assessment to help clarify this assessment and improve future assessments.

Step 6 – Plan

With a clear understanding of the feedback, you can build a plan for improving your next performance on the same task domain. A task domain is the set of related tasks that are done with varying problem conditions, in different contexts, and other factors. Decide whether to accept or modify each opportunity and devise a plan to improve your abilities to raise the quality of your performance. Discuss these with your assessor for any insights. Like any good plan, have measurable goals and a timeline as well as the steps you need to take. At the end of the timeline, set up another assessment.

Example of a Complete PowerUp Assessment

Roy is writing a paper on solving the frequent water restrictions in his community. He wants to get helpful feedback on his work so far and asks Lucia if she will assess his writing and give him a PowerUp. Lucia reviews the process and agrees to try it. They scope the assessment to the introductory paragraph.

We are running out of water in Coyote County. We have restrictions all the time and more people are moving in. A good solution would be to tap a deep aquifer that runs under our area. It would make us less dependent on our small lake and allow expansion. The well could be paid for maybe by a tax or water tap fees or just increasing the monthly minimum. Drilling and connecting shouldn’t take too long to do, and beats the other solutions. The aquifer is big and should also last a long time. If we don’t act, we’ll dry up and blow away.

After developing the criteria with Roy, Lucia reads the introduction, makes some notes, and then produces the following measures. There is a measurement for each aspect.

Criterion Effective Introduction that Motivates and Guides the Reader
Aspect Measurements
little room to improve could improve need to improve need to add
problem described  X
problem important  X
solution briefly described  X
logical structure  X

Example Strengths, Opportunities, & Insights

Lucia summarizes her notes into several strengths, 3 opportunities, and an insight. She probably could say more, but limits her feedback to the most important strengths and opportunities, so Roy is not overwhelmed and can grow from the experience.

Strengths, Opportunities, and Insights  Assess the Assessment
Strength 1 The paragraph leads with the problem. It tells the reader the consequence of not acting, and push the reader to know the solution. Helpful.
Strength 2 The introduction includes criteria for a solution embedded in the reasons to adopt.

Criteria are helpful because they justify the chosen solution and reject alternatives as inferior in the body of the report.

The explanation helps, but not sure what you mean by the “reasons.” Could you give an example?
Opportunity 1 The problem was described too generally “we are running out of water” as it could apply too widely — be more specific and cite data. The opportunity is unclear. I understand the problem, but need to discuss the solution. I can find some data. But how should I be more “specific”?
Opportunity 2 The criteria and the solution are inter-mingled and overload the readers. They need to judge the criteria separately from the solution. From your writing you have:

  • diversify sources
  • reliable when others aren’t
  • cost effective
  • long-term
Actionable! The examples help.
Opportunity 3 Use problem-description-criteria-options-solution-consequences as your intro pattern. You may need several paragraphs. Start with the specific problem “The Coyote Water District cannot supply sufficient water during all seasons” then give more details on the problem with numbers. Then list the criteria and the solution “tap into deeper aquifers.” Separating the elements in this way simplifies the reader’s job. This example really helps  structure the logic of the intro better.
Insight 1 The approach of “problem-detail-criteria- options-solution-consequences” lets readers follow the problem solving logic. Splitting criteria apart from options makes reading easier. Criteria show what counts as a solution. Then the  proposed solution will make more sense. I’ll build a template for effective problem/solution papers. I like this insight and built it into my plan. It will help in the future.

Differences from Evaluation

Evaluation makes a judgement against a standard. This PowerUp assessment feedback avoids getting personal, looks only at how the writing can be improved. In the analysis, Lucia separates Roy from the writing. She analyzes the paragraph on it’s own. Lucia avoids judgmental words, such as strong, weak, good, or bad that reinforce a fixed mindset. Her examples help Roy adopt the thinking pattern she used to assess the work.

Lucia doesn’t combine her strengths and opportunities, as in her observation on the criteria. Roy sees the strength separately so he is likely to repeat it. Lucia how to separate in the opportunities.

From her reading on assessment, Lucia learned the best approach is to help Roy learn to write effectively in the future, so during the feedback she focuses on his understanding and encourages him to rewrite using his own words.

The insight is genuine.

Example Plan

Roy discusses some ideas and then builds a plan. Lucia encourages Roy to take the lead so that he builds a plan he can keep.

Within 2 days, I will rewrite the introduction according to the feedback, starting with the specific problem, then talk about water insecurity, then briefly list criteria for a solution, followed by a list of options considered, and the chosen solution. The summary will promise to develop the criteria, list the options, evaluate them, and then explain why the best one is the best.

I plan to use this structure in future papers.

I’ll self-assess the intro and then complete a draft of the sections within a week.

Could we schedule another PowerUp on the draft before I completely finish?

Lessons from the Example

Roy took a risk by sharing his work with Lucia. He suspected it needed help, but didn’t want to struggle for hours, writing the slow way. The PowerUp assessment demonstrated ways to write faster and clearer. He not only saved time and improved the quality of  his intro, he also learned how to produce better writing in the future.

Your Next Steps

Take more chances with your learning. Commit to overcoming “slow learning” and keep reading the posts. Work through your fears and reward yourself when you do.

There’s nothing stopping you. Practice what you’ve learned so far. Select an area of performance you want to improve. Find an experienced person to give you a PowerUp Assessment. Share this chapter with him or her. Then practice, practice, practice.

As you gain experience, read the rest of the PowerUp Assessment Chapter:

  1. Educational Vampires Afflict Learners – PowerUp to Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones
  2. you are here =>  Are you learning the slow way? 6 steps and 4 elements to quickly improve your level of performance
  3. Coming 10-17-2017.  Not Thriving? Cultivate a Mentor to Help You Grow
  4. Coming 10-20-2017. Struggling? Dissect Your Performance Into 6 Critical Elements to Begin Improving
  5. Coming 10-24-2017. Flipping Mental Attacks – Turn Judgment into Improvement

BONUS: Download a free PowerUp MindTool! Subscribe to our blog through this special offer.

Image Credit

Photo by Mikito Tateisi on Unsplash.

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked*

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.