Want to know what makes my educator heart beat a little faster? A student who embraces challenges, learns from criticism, persists through setbacks, and looks forward to the next try.
That’s the essence of growth mindset and why I’m thrilled it’s becoming more than a popular topic in education circles. It’s becoming a reality.
A growth mindset is basically what it sounds like: The belief that you can grow. There’s hard evidence to support the power of it. After studying the behavior of thousands of children, Dr. Carol Dweck coined the terms fixed mindset and growth mindset to describe the underlying beliefs people have about learning and intelligence. She found that students’ mindset plays a big role in their motivation and achievement. And, if you change their mindset, you can change their achievement.
The little voice in your head
I understand when teachers tell me they’re working hard to introduce growth mindset in their classrooms. But growth mindset is just as applicable to teachers. When you model growth mindset, it becomes real and every day for your students.
Do you have a growth mindset? Think about it.
Do you think skills and intelligence are something you’re born with, challenges are to be avoided, effort is unnecessary if you don’t have the skill, criticism is to be discounted and ignored, someone else’s success is threatening? Those are signs of a fixed mindset.
Or, do you think skills and intelligence can be learned, challenges are opportunities to grow, effort is the path to mastery, feedback is useful, obstacles and setbacks are to be overcome, and the success of others is inspiring? If so, you’ve nailed a growth mindset.
Clearly, one is better than the other.
But, don’t worry if you’re leaning to the fixed side. One of the many things I love about growth mindset is that no matter where you are on the spectrum, you can always improve. After all, no one can claim 100% growth mindset. It’s a process…a journey…an adventure.
A quick assessment
Take a step back from the busyness of your day to reflect on your classroom presence:
- Is your role to teach content—or facilitate experiences that allow discovery?
- How do you define success? Is it about developing expertise—or about persevering and improving?
- What kind of a model are you? Do you let students see your successes and failures?
- Do you feel upset— or thankful—when you receive feedback?
- Do you try new things or avoid them?
Recognize a bit of a fixed mindset in yourself? Wondering how to change the way you think? And how to change the way your students think?
I know how teachers love hacks—those little tips that help you manage things more efficiently and, so, make teaching simpler. What follows are some of the best teacher and student hacks I’ve run across for building a growth mindset. Get out your pen and start checking them off:
- Praise effort, not ability. Acknowledging the importance of effort over talent may not seem like a big deal. But, subtle though it is, it instills a solid work ethic.
- Follow a consistent feedback structure. Tell students what they did well, ask a question about it, and give them a follow up task.
- Award points. Give a content grade—plus points for confidence, perseverance, and attitude. That way, students will have a way to measure their progress in the areas that matter. If they see they are improving, that’s exactly what you want.
- Add “yet” to your vocabulary. I haven’t learned it … yet. I can’t do it …yet.
- Adopt a new language. Replace I give up with I have a lot to learn.
- Hang posters and other classroom displays to remind children of the value of growth mindset.
- Read about and discuss gritty characters from literature who demonstrate growth mindset. Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz comes to mind.
- Encourage students to keep a journal where successes and failures are documented. Review journals for the past week every Monday. Keep the discussion positive, in spite of any setbacks, by asking What did you learn from your failures and successes?
- Teach children to set and monitor goals. They’ll learn if they work hard, they can achieve whatever they want to.
- Give students choice in how they learn. They’ll feel in charge of their learning and more motivated to persevere.
Teachers have a million things to teach. But we need to make room for growth mindset. Seeing your students embrace this new way of thinking will make your teacher heart beat a little faster, I promise. Let us know how it goes.
Online resources to try:
- Fixed v Growth Mindset
- Growth Mindset Books
- Mindset Phrases
- Mindset Quiz
- Stars and Stairs
- Grit and Growth Mindset in Cartoon Characters
For more information, check out our Growth Mindset webinar video.