The Hard Work of Growth Mindset in the Classroom

As the "new kid" at EdGate, I get to see a wider range of standards than what I was exposed to in my recent teaching experience. One concept that I used in my own classroom which can be used across the Common Core, modified Common Core or even different state or national standards, is Growth Mindset.

I always introduced Growth Mindset to my students at the beginning of each year. I began by sharing a video with my students called, "The Power of Belief." This Ted Talk shows the findings of Professor Carol S. Dweck. She defines Fixed Mindset as believing that someone was born with intelligence and talents or was born without. Growth Mindset is believing that these are "qualities that can be developed." Dweck has found that these mindsets drastically affect how students perform and how they react to challenges. Those with Growth Mindset surpass students who had Fixed Mindset simply because they believed they could improve over time.

After viewing this, my students shared what they learned from the viewing. Not all understood the theory, and still others weren't convinced. This is where I pointed out the musicians in the classroom. "How did you sound the first time your fingers touched a violin?" Most agreed that the first time was shockingly bad. I'd then follow up with, "Have you gotten better over time?" and "Do you think you'll get better from where you are now?" Then we'd talk about sports, and finally I'd bring it back around to Reading, Math and Test taking.

At this point, I had them, or at least most of them... at first. I wish I could say that one video and one discussion was all it took to create a Growth Mindset Classroom. We worked hard to ensure we were using "growth talk" instead of "fixed talk" while working through a challenge. One of my happiest memories was after a student feeling defeated said that he couldn't do something, another student responded with, "Yet!" After several months, we went through this again for students who forgot or new students who hadn't been introduced to this before. It was truly a continual practice.

It's not just the children that needed continual reminders of what this looked like. Education Week Research Center reports that, "Only 20 percent of teachers strongly believe they are good at fostering a growth mindset in their own students." As a teacher who was brought up with Fixed Mindset, I had to be very intentional about how I praised students. In an interview by Christine Gross-Loh, Dweck reminds us to, "Praise the effort that led to the outcome or learning progress; tie the praise to it. It's not just effort, but strategy ..." I encouraged my students to hold me accountable for this to help me grow as well. By making this a full classroom experience, we all continued to grow, take risks and encourage each other.

For more tips on how to successfully use Growth Mindset along with the Common Core see Dan Winkler's "The Growth Mindset: The Important Concept NOT Taught Under the Common Core" in Mimio Educator.

By: Tannia King