Growth mindset has become a popular educational buzzword. But what exactly does it mean? Carol Dweck, one of the main researchers on growth mindset (and the one who coined that phrase) defined it as this:
“We found that students’ mindsets—how they perceive their abilities—played a key role in their motivation and achievement, and we found that if we changed students’ mindsets, we could boost their achievement. More precisely, students who believed their intelligence could be developed (a growth mindset) outperformed those who believed their intelligence was fixed (a fixed mindset). And when students learned through a structured program that they could “grow their brains” and increase their intellectual abilities, they did better. Finally, we found that having children focus on the process that leads to learning (like hard work or trying new strategies) could foster a growth mindset and its benefits.”
Fostering a growth mindset in our students can be extremely powerful. Study after study has found that the way students think about learning affects their achievement levels and outcomes. So how do we as teachers foster a growth mindset in our students? We start by realizing that all individuals are a mixture of growth and fixed mindsets, and probably always will be. Then we remember that “the path to a growth mindset is a journey, not a proclamation.” (Carol Dweck, 2015)
Next, we carefully avoid encouraging a false growth mindset. We encourage a false growth mindset when we only praise effort, and fail to give course correction. When we only praise effort (“Good job! You tried your best!” or “Just keep trying.”) we are doing our students a disservice. We are teaching them that effort alone is an achievement to be celebrated. In truth, the right kind of effort can lead to a learning achievement. Having a growth mindset does NOT mean celebrating effort alone. It means celebrating effort along the way to real understanding. It means acknowledging that setbacks and failures are part of the journey to real achievement, and knowing how to learn from and overcome them. So as teachers, we need to arm our students with tools and strategies they can use when they face a challenge or get stuck. We reward students when real understanding is achieved, and we praise effort along the way to help keep them motivated.
Finally, openly and explicitly talking about fixed mindsets versus growth mindsets can be a powerful tool. I’m going to show you 5 different (free) activities that you can use inside your room right now to help foster a growth mindset in your students.
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1. Defining Powerful Growth Mindset Vocabulary Words
In order for our students to really understand what a growth mindset is, we need to explicitly teacher and define the words that surround it. By letting them define and describe these terms in their own words, they will have a better understand of each concept.
2. Overcoming fear and anxiety:
Fear and anxiety are a big part of a fixed mindset. Fear of looking stupid. Fear of not knowing the answer. Fear of feeling like a failure. If we can address the fears inside our students, we can teach them how to cope, process, and change. We can show them that learning is a process and a productive struggle. We can show them how others around them (including teachers and other adults) still have those same fears. We can show them that learning can still take place even when their scared. Risks can still be taken and new things learned even when they are worried. This is powerful!
3. Fixing Negative Self-Talk
Going along with the previous activity, this page can help our students begin to change their thinking processes. It helps them self-identify something negative they tell themselves. Then, it gives them a new phrase to try instead. It’s one more strategy we can give our students to use when trying to learn something new.
4. Growth Mindset Poster
Having your students color and talk about the phrases on this poster can help them retrain their fixed mindset into a growth mindset. It can give the phrases to use and refer back to when things begin to be challenging.
5. Growth Mindset Bookmark
Finally, these fun bookmarks just help remind your students that learning is a journey and that they can walk the path, however difficult it may be!
PEACE, LOVE, AND STICKY NOTES