Growth mindset is not new but is increasingly quoted and held up as good practice as part of teacher training and development and with good reason. However making it actually work or embedding it into the way we teach and therfore how students think is not something that is easily done. While posters and videos may inform us and our students of how growth mindset works it is how we use the concept in our daily lessons (reflected through our attitudes) that will change our students thinking.
In the video below Carol Dweck talks about a school she visited which instead of using a failing grade used the words “not yet”. As Carol discusses this simple wording sends a whole different message to students. Carol also talks about getting students to view “difficulty” and “effort” as the way to learn and improve and not as things that should make them feel like giving up or an indication they are dumb.
Are our classrooms places that encourage and teach a growth mindset, to view difficulty and effort as important keys to learning? NO I mean really, do we teach it!
Do we enter our classrooms expecting very little from some and a lot from others? We have all heard teachers make comments like, “I could write their reports now, their results won’t change much, I could have predicted it from the start of the year!” As easy as this and similar comments are to make they all contribute to the perception that some students in our classes will never amount to anything more than they already are. We don’t want to encourage a fixed mindset in our ourselves or our students.
Students soon pick up on our perceptions of them. If we have an attitude that they will never improve or don’t have the ability to do so then they will soon take on this attitude as well. As hard as it may be at times we need to teach students the value of effort and persistence with learning they find difficult.
I came across a version of this poster via @gregwhitby on Twitter (see below). The poster is a great reflection tool for the classroom allowing teachers to get students to self reflect about their growth mindset.
The poster above is one I put together (copying the original) with the thought that maybe it could be a useful resource for teachers. It provides a visual that allows us to challenge our students and ask the question, “which step have you reached?”
Carol Dweck’s research is well known and her findings have been used the world over with teachers when talking about how we praise our students. How do our actions impact on how our students see themselves? Do we encourage a fixed or growth mindset?
In a very simplified form Dweck’s research suggests that praising for intelligence and ability encourages a fixed mindset while praising for effort encourages a growth mindset. So knowing this how do we praise the students in our classes? If someone observed our classes over time what conclusion would they draw about how we offer praise?
The information below is taken from the Leaders Resource – Getting Started developed by the Teaching and Learning Services team DECD.
In the last post I talked briefly about finding out about student’s current knowledge of content (part 2 ‘What do they bring’). It is important however to remind ourselves that there is so much more that impacts on student learning than just students content knowledge. As teachers we must try to find out as much useful information out about our students as we can to assist us with teaching and designing new learning (making connections with students and not just teaching isolated ideas or concepts). Things that students bring to the classroom that impact on how they will learn include:
There personal view of themselves as a learner – is it from a fixed view of intelligence? i.e. I will not get any smarter, I will always be dumb or I enjoy learning new things, I know I can get smarter (see the two videos below).
What is going at home can impact on the learning that happens in the classroom.
Cultural experiences and perspectives.
Do they have the foundation they need to proceed? What is needed for them to proceed? i.e. appropriate research skills, debating skills, skills required for using technology software, time management skills, communication skills etc…..
Student’s perception of the teacher.
Learning styles and preferences.
Students bring different motivations? What challenges and motivates each student? Do they see challenges as opportunities to learn or do they shy away in fear of looking wrong?
Teachers have always understood that there are a wide range of things that impact on students learning. It is critical that we try to understand all knowledge/attitudes and misconceptions that students bring to the classroom. We should ask ourselves:
•What are the common patterns we have seen that learners bring?
• What are their existing understandings?
• What dispositions, experiences, questions do they have?
• What strategies capture and enable this?
Video 1: Carol Dweck talks about how some students are motivated by learning and not worried about how others perceive them. What are the things that these students bring to the classroom that give them this attitude towards learning?
Video 2: Dr Martin Westwall talks about Learner Self Theories (this video was taken from the TfEL DVD produced by DECD) . Does how a learner percieve themselves impact on their learning?