Growth Mindset

Yesterday I attended Edcamp London and went into a session about growth mindset.  Not knowing what this would entail, I was wondering if the topic was going to focus on the growth mindset of educators or students.  When I went in I was hoping to get the perspective on how we as educators can help students in their mindset.  I currently feel that my Grade 12 class would benefit from me educating them on persevering in their education as most are off to college in September.  It was my goal to get a better idea of how I could educate my students to have a better mindset in their future education.

Great conversations started from Andrew Kwiecien, Ryan Chisholm, and Jeremie Roselle about the book on mindset from Carol Dweck.  The book covers how we can use our growth mindset when we want.  It looked at the mindset of professionals in education, corporate businesses, and parents and discussed how their own mindsets affect their life.  It is a book I plan to read shortly because it sounds like it will be very effective for helping me inspire my students to take on the challenge of having a growth mindset.

In our conversations we talked about the stigmas and the preconceptions students have about their ability to succeed in a particular subject.  For example, if a student has not been successful in math throughout elementary school, they will come into secondary school with the mindset “I’m not good at math, so I can’t do it”.  I know that I have seen this in England where I taught and this was one of the challenges we regularly talked about but never thought of the solutions on how to overcome this.  In our conversation we also looked at how students take the praise they have been given by parents and teachers and use it to create a “mask” that puts them into a comfort zone in the classroom.  We also talked about how students use this mask to shy away from taking chances and asking questions to help their learning.

One of the solutions we started to develop in the session was the idea of  modelling the growing mindset to our group of students.  This directly linked to a new approach to problem solving I am currently taking.  When we are solving a problem in class I talk about the thought process I am going through so that I model to my students how I want them to approach the problem.  I also want the students to understand that even the teacher has to think about the problem before coming up with the solution, nothing “just happens” for us to answer a question.

The issue we foresaw with that is that these new “masks” may be created from this new praise, which would defeat the purpose we have for praise in the first place.  Although from this point it seemed like a daunting task and one that was a catch-22, we as a group had an interesting thought.  If all of us (or a vast majority of us) in a school came to the agreement to start working on this growth mindset, we may start seeing more success and “I can” attitude in our learners in subjects they didn’t feel they could do before.  The question that sparks from this: How could we get more fixed mindset people in our schools to adopt to the growth mindset mentality?

We, as teachers, will face these challenges when it comes to having students think about their ability before they enter the class.  It is our job to help students “break” the mask they have created and provide them with the opportunities and experiences to gain new comfort levels in situations they usually feel uncomfortable in.  My question to you is: how do you work with students to change their mindset and make them feel confident in all areas of their education?

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5 thoughts on “Growth Mindset

  1. Daniel, I love this post for a few reasons. First, in writing it, you are actually pointing to the growth mindset that you have—consciously or unconciously—adopted in your own teaching life.

    Second, it points to the comfort level that we need to develop ourselves in order to nurture this in others.

    Your post—and i think that this is a difficult one—your reflections point directly to the set of values that underpin our various assessment and evaluation protocols. Isn’t it true that Math education has, traditionally, been a matter of “getting it right”. You either get it right or you don’t. Oh sure, there have been marks given for showing your work along the way, but I don’t think that our evaluation mindsets and reporting mechanisms have really caught up with the type of approach for which you are so bravely advocating.

    I also love the fact that you’ve pointed us in the direction of the masks that we don in order to make our way in the world. It provides me with an opportunity to share one of the most powerful commentaries I’ve heard on this. I first heard it in the mid-80′s (1980′s) and have carried it with me ever since:

    “I’m not who I think I am; I’m not who YOU think I am. But…I am who ‘I think you think I am’”.

    I’ll just kind of throw that one out there without further commentary!

    Thanks for this post and the opportunity to participate in a conversation for which I was not physically present!

    Stephen

  2. Hi Daniel, teaching elementary students I see the impact of positive praise on younger children, but also they do need to feel successful, or it becomes false praise. I think they have to feel like it is”safe” to fail. If they know that failure is just a step in the process, and it is safe and acceptable to fail. .. Then they are more likely to take risks.
    How can we get more teachers to adopt a”growth mind set? Same parameters. .. Have to feel safe, knowing that they are expected to have some fails on the way to greater success.
    Great, thought-provoking post. Thanks for sharing!
    Scott

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