All too often, teachers hear the words I can’t or I don’t know how, and are faced with the perils of students who just simply believe that they are incapable of success. The work of Carol Dweck on mindsets and the power we, in education, have to shift one’s own self-understanding is great, and in helping support students – and teachers – to grow overtime, the power of a positive mindset takes shape.
Dweck writes of the importance of giving students learning tasks that tell them they can be as smart as they want to be, providing students with meaningful schoolwork that promotes opportunities for challenge, for effort, for resilience, and that values improvement overtime. As she explains, those students with a growth mindset view challenging work as an opportunity to learn and grow, whereas those with a fixed mindset sacrifice important opportunities to learn, especially when such experiences require a risk of poor performance or admittance of some deficiencies. At Pioneer Central, teachers studying the growth mindset philosophy have taken it back to their classrooms, working with populations of students to promote continued effort over immediate success. The hallways of Arcade Elementary are draped with bulletin boards, student work, and posters that advocate for effort over being right 100% of the time.
A cohort of teachers, administrators, and curriculum coordinators recently explored the power of the growth mindset philosophy, discussing how to channel that understanding of mindset amongst their students and their teachers. As a part of their learning, the group discussed how to work toward fostering a growth mindset, from emphasizing challenge over success, to giving a sense of progress as a part of the learning space. The ultimate goal for many was on the promotion of long-term success. A growth mindset can help to promote a love of learning and resilience in the face of obstacles.
One of the most manageable ways to shift the I can’t mentality is through the power of praise. Many, be it students, be it teachers, or be it administrators, get caught in the rut of saying things such as good job, or nice work over and over again. While such anecdotes of praise are all well and good, the question lies as to whether or not they are truly specific enough to insight growth. Rather than being redundant with such common statements of praise, research suggests that educators use more specific, precise praise, which shifts one’s mindset from being overtly fixed, to one that promotes an effort toward growth. Growth comes from praise that incites effort and hard work on the part of the student or teacher. Anne Cater, curriculum coordinator at Belfast Central School, explains that the power of praise was one of the major takeaways for her staff: “Our teachers in attendance have worked to incorporate what they learned, praising for effort rather than for being correct.”
Teachers and administrators work to think of all the ways
they praise their students and their teachers.
Are they predominantly fixed or growth-oriented in their efforts to praise?
Regardless of the manner in which we work toward fostering a growth mindset, when we, as educators work to praise the learning process rather than ability, we are helping to outfit students and teachers with the values and tools that breed lifelong success.
By: Lauren Stuff, CA BOCES
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