Growth Mindset is currently one of the most popular topics in education. The idea that our mindset affects our learning success has been around for a while but is now trending. Dr. Carol Dweck created the terms fixed mindset and growth mindset to describe the beliefs people have about learning and mental capacity nearly 30 years ago. Dr. Dweck and her team researched the effect our mindset has on our ability to learn and identified how a growth mindset provides opportunities for success. In her TEDx video on “The Power of Yet” Carol Dweck explains:
“On the left, you see the fixed mindset students. There’s hardly any activity. They run from the error. They don’t engage with it. But on the right, you have the students with the growth mindset, the idea that abilities can be developed. They engage deeply. Their brain is on fire with yet. They engage deeply. They process the error. They learn from it and they correct it.”
In our classrooms, students often need many reminders that they are always able to improve and they have the capacity to get better at a skill. We commonly hear students say “I’m not good at math” or “I can’t draw”. If students understand that they hold the ability to change their skills they will see possibility rather than failure.
As teachers we can encourage a growth mindset in our students in several different ways:
1. Model Growth Mindset and Work on Yourself
Identifying fixed mindset tendencies in ourselves can help us understand the struggles our students are having. Working on progress rather than perfection by using criticism to move forward, helps us to understand what we are asking as teachers.
Modelling a Growth Mindset by sharing some of this learning with our students may help them to see the value of a Growth Mindset, and show that we live what we teach.
2. Meaningful Praise
Praising the learning process and struggles we see our students go through helps them recognize the value in their learning. Rather than “good job” or “well done”, praising learning is more authentic when praising effort such as “See how your studying has helped on your test?” or “I like how you stuck with this problem and solved it!”.
3. Don’t Give Up
Understanding that you can’t yet do it means you should keep trying. As Bruno Mars says, “Don’t give up”.
Whilst this video applies mostly to sports, its values can be applied to math, art and science. The more you try, the more you improve.
4. Use differentiated teaching strategies
Students learn in so many different ways and using multiple strategies allows our learners to build experience and problem solve. Often students who are exposed to many strategies begin to recognize how they best learn and therefore find ways to support their learning independently. Ultimately this is what we are striving for; independent problem solvers.
5. Ask your Students to Reflect on Their Growth
When asked, students can usually explain when they had to work hard at something and how they have improved. Exit slips are written responses to questions posed by the teacher to informally assess how students have learned. Exit slips and self-evaluation are a great way to highlight how students have used a growth mindset to improve their learning.
Wherever we are on our Growth Mindset journey, may we continue to always learn from our mistakes.