An idea that is beginning to gain a lot of favour in education at the moment is the notion of fixed versus growth mindsets, and how they might relate to students and learning. During the past few months, BOCES has offered two workshops entitled; “Mindsets in the Classroom.” More than 70 teachers and administrators have learned about Growth Mindset based on the work of Stanford University psychologist, Carol Dweck; the idea of mindset is related to our understanding of where ability comes from.
Growth mindset is a simple and powerful concept explained in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Essentially, if you have a growth mindset you believe your abilities — how smart you are, how you backhand a tennis ball, how well you manage your time — can improve with effort.
The alternative to growth mindset is fixed mindset: the belief that your abilities are already set.
Fixed mindset says, “I’m not good at reading.”
Growth mindset says, “I’m not good at reading right now, but I can get better if I work at it.”
As studies have shown, this simple difference is pretty powerful.
Growth mindset allows kids to see challenges as opportunities to grow rather than daunting judgments on who they are.
Some methods for developing growth mindsets in the classroom are:
Few would argue that calling a kid stupid is a good idea. What many find surprising, though, is that the opposite — calling a kid smart — is bad, too.
One of Dweck’s key studies illustrates this. In the study, Dweck took two groups of elementary students; one group was praised for being smart, the other was praised for working hard. After this, both groups were given the chance to take a challenging assessment. The “smart” group was hesitant to take the assessment, while the “hard working” group was open to trying.
What’s really crazy is that, when both groups were given the assessment, the “smart” group did not perform as well as the “hard-working” group.
Essentially, Dweck found that praising kids in a fixed manner — in this case, that their achievement was due to the fixed state of “being smart” — retards both their motivation to engage with challenges and with the actual performance on assessments, whereas praising kids in a growth manner — in other words, attributing their success to hard work — propels their growth in the long term.
So the first method for developing growth mindset is by being thoughtful with how you praise students.
Storytelling is powerful. Teachers must develop a go-to repertoire of stories that illustrate the power of hard work and growth mindset.
A great place to start for those stories: Dweck’s book. In the book, there is a large collection of illustrative anecdotes sprinkled throughout it. The next step would be reading biographies of people who have become successful through hard work. In the workshop we used TED videos and video clips of movies such as; “Finding Nemo”, “Facing the Giants”, “The Ron Clark Story”, “The Pursuit of Happiness”, and “Nike Commercials with Michael Jordan.”
So the second method for developing growth mindset is by sing stories, TED Talks and video clips about the power of perseverance, struggle, and growth.
Teach kids how their brains work:
The key idea about the brain to get across to kids is that the brain is like a muscle in that it can be developed and strengthened. There are many books and articles available to teach student’s how the brain works and grows over a lifetime.
So the third method for developing growth mindset is by teaching kids that their brains are malleable.
How do you encourage a growth mindset in your school or classroom?
For more information about Growth Mindsets in your school or classroom, please do not hesitate to reach out to Tessa Levitt or Lauren Stuff.
By: Tessa Levitt, Jen Pangbord, and Lauren Stuff, CA BOCES