If you work in education in just about any capacity, you’ve probably spent some time thinking, talking, or learning about growth mindset. In fact, TeachThought, an education blog, listed it as the most popular trend in education for 2018.
So, what is this growth mindset thing all about and how can we apply it to our everyday school experience?
Growth mindset, and its counterpart, fixed mindset, were terms created by Stanford professor Carol Dweck to describe the psychological responses people have to setbacks or failure. According to Dweck, students who believed they could learn, grow, and improve as learners were more likely to succeed because of their growth mindset. On the other hand, students who believed that their intelligence was fixed, that others were just “smarter” than them, or that they weren’t able to achieve academically were thought to have a fixed mindset and would ultimately be less successful.
The idea of growth mindset has led to a push from educators to encourage students to make an effort and improve, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, according to Dweck. However, having a growth mindset isn’t just about effort. Dweck wrote in an editorial that one of her biggest fears is that the concept growth mindset will be used to the detriment of students – offering praise just for trying, without pushing students to actually learn or grow.
Although there are many ways you can foster a growth mindset in your school, here are some easy options you can have your teachers incorporate today:
- Ask students to explain how they got their answers or why they tried different methods – by getting students to more critically think about their process, you can highlight the learning that is happening – even if they don’t always reach the right answer.
- Use the word “yet” more often – when students lament that they can’t do something or don’t know how, emphasize that they don’t know yet. Make it clear to your students that it is okay to not know everything, but the goal is to learn a little bit more each day until they can do the task they’re struggling with.
- Set small goals for students, especially those who are having trouble – by accomplishing smaller goals, student will get a sense of accomplishment and be motivated to keep working toward whatever skill or task they are trying to achieve.
- When students suffer setbacks, talk about the next time – help students understand that there will be a next time, and that with planning and reflection, they can improve upon what they’ve done this time. An end-of-day or end-of-class reflection paragraph asking students to answer “What could I do differently the next time?” is a great way to encourage this thinking.
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