Growth Mindset

If I had a nickel for every time a teacher would say to me while looking at low level intervention materials, “Oh dear, my kids can’t do that”, I would be able to buy Ford Motor Corporation. To bring the whole idea around, it was Henry Ford who said “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right”. Which brings us to the whole idea of mindset. As Dr. Dweck compares; “Some believe their success is based on innate ability; these are said to have a “fixed” theory of intelligence (fixed mindset). Others, who believe their success is based on hard work, learning, training and doggedness are said to have a “growth” or an “incremental” theory of intelligence (growth mindset). Here is a TED Talk with Dr. Dweck on growth mindset

So just where is the rub? I confess, I’m as guilty as the next person. I could look in the mirror and be writing this article to myself. As we know, if we think what we always thought, we’ll get what we always got. Quite often the reticence to change is not embedded in our students; especially in the earlier grade levels. Quite often it is the staff who remain behind in their way of thinking. When class lists are given out at the beginning of the school year, the common practice is to find out everything one can before the bell rings and they all hit the room. But does this prior preparation help or hinder the students? Don’t we consider and take into account that the same child that was being reported on last year is going to be the same student this year? The students come to know this early in their academic careers thereby setting them early on their path of their destiny. I recently read of a great teacher from Plano, TX ISD, on how he facilitated ‘growth mindset’ for himself to model it for the students:

Instead of grouping the students at the four-desk pods: 1 above, 2 at and 1 below grade level performance, he did NO research before class started and told the students so. He indicated that they have all be organized by last names, starting with the Z’s at the front of the class and worked his way down to A until he reached the back of the classroom. The outcome, for him, was astounding. As he promised, the first two weeks he would look at none of their information and would start everyone out with a “clean slate” thereby leveling the classroom to give opportunities to shine. What happened was the students took full advantage of the opportunity to be looked on for who they really are at that time, as opposed to who they thought the teacher was expecting. This whole experiment told me a few things:

  1. growth mindset needs to be a full classroom experience. I have seen countless times when Ripple Effects was being put into the school and the students continuously working to better themselves. While the staff remained reticent to accept the change of the student; thereby, themselves. Going into teaching, many of us sought to make the world better and help kids. I DOUBT we did it for the money or fame. Were that true I believe we would have been smart enough to pursue Justin Bieber’s agent rather than the stale halls of college.
  2. students are more pliable than most adults. Quite often they have not yet been beaten down by the decades of conditioning that we have experienced. They know they can do things differently if given a chance. Research shows that with growth mindset, students can exhibit greater potential and talents with good teaching, practice and resilience. This, however, must be fostered by respect, honesty and support. It cannot be easily accomplished with “oh my kids could never do this”. I love the path of teaching illuminated by the quote by Frederick Douglass “it is easier to build a healthy child than to fix a broken man”.
  3. learning styles and fostering are two hidden gifts for every teacher to know. A wonderful gift to give one students, and yourself, at the beginning of the school year (or the second week in) is to ascertain what the learning style is for each student. There are many keys to efficacious teaching of skill sets based on the students styles and methods of learning. While listening to a principal from Colorado yesterday, it occurred to me that in the blended learning atmosphere, classroom energy can be conducted and made useful by orchestrating these learning styles.

In the research, Here is a link to Hattie’s most efficacious methods of practicing growth mindset: Link to 138 influences related to achievement

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You’ll notice number 2 in impact on the list is Piagetian Programs… which, if you are like me, had to be looked up. Basically what it denotes is the teacher understanding the students level of thinking and challenging them to rise to greater levels through cognitive acceleration. Let’s Think, which is allied with King’s College in England has a great deal to say about this process and has many great resources. I hope that as we teach the kids about growth and their abilities to affect the changes we know can occur within our students we remember that we, too, need to embrace the growth mindset. The resources aggregated here are meant to be helpful tools to help everyone see that merely changing our own mindset to “Oh my kids could do this with my great and insightful teaching strategies” may actually help our students believe they can start to think and grow. If you think you may be stuck, perhaps looking into Ripple Effects for Staff might give a guide from the side with no blame and no shame. Click here for a free Mindset survey

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