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How You Can Create a Growth Mindset in Your Students
posted by: Melissa | April 07, 2017, 08:16 PM   

Educational buzzwords seem to enter the field quickly and seemingly out of the blue. For a while, they are all that anyone seems to be talking about, but then, when a new fad comes in, they disappear from view. Growth mindset is not one of these fads.

The concept of a growth mindset has been around for at least a decade and has been penetrating the minds of educators at a slow boil. Originally conceptualized by psychologist Carol Dweck, it puts into words what teachers have long known instinctively: that if a student believes they can learn then, they will learn. You can see it explained in more depth in Carol Dweck’s TED talk. The challenge for educators is how to take that concept and bring it to life in their own classrooms.

First, teachers need to re-evaluate how they praise their students. Often as teachers, when we praise students, we tell them how smart they are. This only reinforces the notion that intelligence is something you are born with, instead of something you develop through effort. We also need to avoid swinging in the opposite direction by praising them for anything that they do. Instead, we need to recognize when students put in the effort to do something that is truly hard for them, causing them to improve.

We also need to focus on the process, not just the results. Schools tend to put all of the focus on the end grades. Did you get an A? Then nothing else matters. Did you get an F? Then nothing else matters. Instead, teachers should be focusing on the work students do to get results.

Perhaps most importantly, we need to force students to take ownership of their own work. This can be a scary prospect for teachers and administrators at times. We want to sweep in and tell students that they must read for 20 minutes a night or that they must answer all the questions in the study guide. A writer at KQED suggests that instead we work with the students to set a goal, and then let them decide how they will get there. That way, not hitting their goal means they have to change strategies, not that they failed.

Finally, we need to model struggle for our students. Believe it or not, many students are under the impression that they’re the only person who has difficulty learning. When we model struggle, either by working through an issue together as a whole class or by transparently displaying our own struggles for our students, we can help students realize that they are not the only person with this issue and we can show them positive ways to deal with setbacks.

How do you help students develop a growth mindset in your schools?

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