10 Ways Teachers Can Instill a Growth Mindset in Students
About Carol Dweck and Growth Mindset in Education, for StudentsFeel free to skip this section if you’re familiar with growth mindset's definition and history.For the many educators who aren’t, Carol Dweck -- a Stanford University psychology professor who researches personality and development -- popularized the philosophy through her 2007 book, Mindset.She explains students’ mindsets -- the way they perceive their abilities -- fall somewhere between two opposites:
- Fixed Mindset -- Students believe their skills, talents and overall intelligence are fixed traits. They may resist learning and trying to improve, typically feeling embarrassed when not understanding something.
- Growth Mindset -- Students know they can develop their skills and talents through effort and persistence, as well as being receptive to lessons and feedback. They generally believe they can improve through hard work and trying new learning methods.
10 Ways Teachers Can Foster a Growth Mindset in Students
1. Avoid Praising Intelligence and Sheer Effort
You risk discouraging growth by primarily praising intelligence and sheer effort, instead of acknowledging the importance of planning and trying new approaches. Complimenting intelligence can reinforce it as a fixed trait, says Dweck.And although effort is aligned with growth mindset, explicitly praising it can backfire. For example, if you tell students to “just keep trying” when their hard work doesn’t pay off, they may feel incompetent.Instead, give feedback that highlights the values of planning and trying different learning strategies:
|Fixed Mindset||Growth Mindset|
|You tried your hardest, and that’s all you can do.||Don’t worry if you don’t understand something right away. Focus on your next steps. What should they be?|
|You’ll eventually get these types of questions if you just keep trying.||If you don’t understand these types of questions, try using a different perspective. You may be able to draw or write them out.|
|Great job! You’re so smart!||Great job! The study plan you made helped a lot. You should make another for the next test.|
2. Use Diverse Teaching Strategies
Exposing students to different instructional methods and strategies will help build a repertoire of learning skills to handle diverse challenges, according to Dweck. You can use differentiated instruction tactics and principles to vary the content you present and how students process it, as well as how they demonstrate knowledge:
- Content -- When applicable, use videos, audio clips, presentations and physical manipulatives such as blocks in your lessons. Learning stations can help you deliver this content in a single class.
- Processes -- Give students chances to not only work individually, but in pairs, small groups and big groups.
- Products -- Let students demonstrate understanding of content in a variety of ways on tests, projects and assignments. For example, you can create an open project that students can complete as an essay, presentation or artistic production.
3. Introduce Simple Gamification Elements
Certain aspects of gamification -- the practice of applying video game elements to your class -- can highlight student progress instead of emphasizing mistakes.Specifically, you can easily modify how you present marks on tests and assignments. Instead of only awarding percentages or letter grades, give scores in the form of experience points (XP). For example, if a student earns 85% on a quiz, give him or her 8,500 XP too. You can also award XP for completing assignments, participating in class or anything that demonstrates effort to learn. Students many even actively take on extra-curricular work, similar to how they complete quests and missions in video games. You can give XP for separate skills and topics, keeping track of the points students have accumulated like so: [caption id="attachment_583" align="aligncenter" width="1483"] Click to expand.[/caption] Doing this gives them a clear reference point to see how much they’d learned and accomplished. And instead of going downhill from 100%, they’re going uphill from zero XP. This illustrates the type of steady improvement that’s at the heart of building a growth mindset.
4. Teach the Values of Challenges
Explaining the inherent benefits of overcoming obstacles can help students develop a growth mindset, according to Dweck. She specifically recommends teaching about the effect on the brain when people push through their comfort zones to grasp difficult concepts. The neurons form stronger connections, leading to improved intelligence over time. Therefore, effort and difficulty are paths, not roadblocks, to becoming smarter. Middle school students in a control group that learned this lesson earned a clear increase in math scores over two years, according to a study by Dweck and her colleagues. But those in a group that thought intelligence was fixed saw a decrease. As these results show, simply teaching the broad benefits of building a growth mindset can have a positive effect on students.
5. Encourage Students to Expand their Answers
Asking students to elaborate on their thoughts during discussion reveals what they do and don’t understand, encouraging them to process content at a deeper level as they reflect on their responses. This demonstrates a core aspect of growth mindset -- subject matter expertise isn’t inherent, but developed. Give students opportunities to share and expand on their thoughts by running:
- Problem-based learning (PBL) activities -- Whether in a small or large group, problem-based learning allows students to collaborate and share thoughts with each other.
- Question and answer sessions after presentations -- Encourage students to ask questions to the presenter, allowing him or her to delve into important points.
6. Explain the Purposes of Abstract Skills and Concepts
Teaching a unit or subject filled with abstract skills and concepts? Instilling a growth mindset in students may take more work.This is because if the bulk of your students struggle with determining a concept’s real-world applications, they may not see the purpose in improving their knowledge of that concept. Should you feel this is the case with a given skill or topic, explore and explain:
- Why it is significant
- What its uses are outside of class
- How it will help students in the future
7. Allow Time for Goal-Based Journaling
Journaling serves different purposes, including encouraging students to build a growth mindset through goal setting. As an exit ticket, ask students to:
- Set learning goals for themselves
- Discuss progression toward meeting these goals
- Attainable and Agreed-Upon
8. Say “Yet” More Often
The word “yet” can change disparaging sentences into positive ones, promoting growth, according to Dweck. This linguistic trick works especially well with sentences that include “can’t” or “don’t,” because it reverses the negative connotation. See for yourself by adding “yet” to the end of these sentences:
- I can’t do long division
- I don’t have the skills to answer this question
- I don’t understand dependent and independent clauses
9. Help Students Change their Language
As you shift your phrasing, you can help students change their language to push their mindsets from growth-averse to development-oriented.Fixed-mindset students see poor performance as a rebuke of their abilities, writes Dweck. Instead, you can help them view struggle as a chance to improve skills and understanding. Language -- written, spoken and thought -- is a tool to accomplish this goal. Consider creating a table, similar to the one below, to post in your classroom:
|Fixed Mindset||Growth Mindset|
|It’s as good as it’s going to get||There’s room to improve with the right approach|
|This is just too difficult||Time to try some strategies we learned|
|I made another mistake||Just another chance to learn|
|This’ll get the marks I need||I can add more to this answer|
|I’m not good at this topic||I’m not good at this topic yet|
10. Use Success Folders
Through the semester or year, students can struggle to remember their progress and achievements. Success folders address this problem, providing first-hand evidence of growth.What are success folders? That becomes clear when learning how they cultivate growth mindset. You must:
- Create the Folders -- Give each student a folder -- yes, the kind made of cardboard or stiff paper. On the cover, ask them to draw a picture or write a short story that depicts their personal concepts of success.
- Personalize the Folders -- Every day or week, allot time for students to add personal examples of successful learning to the folder. These can be summaries of tasks they completed, explanations of new concepts they learned or tests and assignments they aced.
- Reflect on the Folders -- To begin each week on a high note, have students look through their success folders. This encourages them to reflect on their achievements, providing first-hand evidence of growth.