As you pack up your classroom, filing away lessons and deciding whether to keep or scrap student work samples, your mind may already be racing with ideas about ways you can make next year even better. You’ve probably heard about how having a growth mindset helps students to persist through challenges and take risks — and you may be thinking about how you can help your students do just that next year.
Want to learn more about growth mindset? We’ve got you covered!
As a first generation college graduate, a decision I made early in life was to have a growth mindset. If you’re new to the term growth mindset, or maybe just on the hunt for resources, check out Teaching Channel’s Growth Mindset Deep Dive. While many people assume things in my life have come easily, I’ve spent my entire existence struggling to succeed. Blessed or cursed (depending on your perspective) with an insane amount of drive as well as a natural curiosity toward all things, my life has been a constant cycle of discovery, failure, retooling, and — mostly — eventual success.
This lifestyle has carried over into my classroom, as I believe that regardless of the content I’m teaching, it’s my duty as an educator to prepare all of the young people that walk through my door to face the challenges that lie ahead of them. That’s why I’m such a staunch advocate for the incorporation of the engineering design process into all classrooms. The EDP is the epitome of growth mindset and transcends the classroom into every facet of day-to-day life.
In that spirit, I continue to refine my practice. Every year, I identify one area of my instruction as a point of emphasis. In the past, these areas have ranged from classroom management, to individualized learning plans, to the integration of technology. One area I’ve been putting off is refining the writing process that occurs within my STEM course. Why have I been putting it off? Quite honestly, I struggle with writing. I believe in the value of writing, but freely acknowledge that it’s not a strength I possess. Opening up this area of my practice could be humbling, but it’s my hope that we (myself as well as fellow educators) will all benefit from this experience.
Having a growth mindset is multifaceted. In part, it’s about persistence — adapting and trying a different approach when the first attempt fails. People with a growth mindset see feedback as critique, rather than criticism. Learning becomes it’s own reward and ticking off goals along the way motivates the learner to continue.
Creating a classroom climate that is conducive to developing a growth mindset in students requires thinking about several points. Teachers think in terms of students setting worthwhile and attainable goals for themselves, engaging students in learning situations where they can work collaboratively and cooperatively, each contributing and learning from one another. Growth mindset in the classroom also means offering constructive feedback to help guide students’ next steps, and giving praise that highlights effort and resilience rather than the attributes students have no control over.
This year, as part of my professional growth plan, I’m delighted to facilitate a virtual professional learning community via Twitter chat to delve more deeply into growth mindset. Growth mindset is the theory that intelligence, talent, and ability are fluid and can be developed with effective effort over time. This is in opposition to the theory that intelligence, ability, and talent are fixed — you either have them or you don’t. This work is important to me because I believe that all students can learn, and part of my challenge as an educator is helping my students to believe that as well.
One of my favorite parts of being an educator is learning. It may sound strange, but I love learning new things and getting better at what I do. It recharges my batteries.
Every school year, I begin the year excited to apply something new that I’ve learned. I reflect critically about the things that were successful with my last cohort of students, and which areas left room for growth. I intentionally seek learning opportunities that will support my professional growth in the areas that present a challenge. This is how I model growth mindset.
Growth mindset has been the center of my Getting Better Together project with Teaching Channel. Over the past year, I wrote about my journey related to instilling a growth mindset in my students. This video playlist is a window into our work.
Editor’s Note: This blog is the third post by Jennifer in the Upcycling Series about heading back to the classroom after time as an instructional coach. Join us in following her journey.
In the arena of education, I’ve learned to pay attention to how I grasp and assimilate new concepts. I pride myself on the idea that I’m a natural at applying insights to my own teaching practice. And there it is… my irrepressible ego. That’s my ego infiltrating and creeping up at the beginning of my blog. Always on alert. Always convinced that “I got this.” Always self preserving with an insatiable appetite.
Imagine going to school each day and entering a classroom filled with students who are eager to explore mathematical ideas, willing to embrace failure and struggle, and persistent with any math problem you give them. As teachers, we have often been led to believe that the greatest math lessons come about when we have good curriculum materials and interesting tasks — those are important, without doubt, but the new science of the brain is telling us that engaged and successful students come about when students believe they have unlimited potential and that they can learn anything.
Studies even show that our brains grow the most when we’re struggling and challenged, and if you believe in yourself, as a teacher or a student, your brain will grow more when you encounter challenge than if you doubt your potential (see a 1-minute video explaining that below).
I’ve always felt proud to say that I am a teacher. Teachers are some of the kindest, most generous people on the planet, and the teachers I work with are no exception.
Teachers in Oak Park, like teachers everywhere, love their students. They work hours on end after the school day is done, planning and preparing for the students they serve. They are more than teachers; they are home away from home, social worker, nurse, and friend. Needless to say, teachers leave an indelible mark on their students.
Earlier this year, I was able to sit down with a handful of my colleagues as part of my Getting Better Together work, which is focused on cultivating a growth mindset among my students. This impromptu “Professional Learning Network” session, which we recorded via a Google Hangout on Air, was amazing and very powerful for me as a teacher. Here’s a recording of the session:
How do you get a three year old to obey? By making it her idea! My very opinionated, passionate, threenager is extremely strong willed. As our family was sharing our one word goals with each other, imagine my surprise when she selected the word “obey.” This has become a magic word that I pray never rubs off! Instead of the usual “Mom, why are you being mean to me?” when I correct her, her response has changed dramatically. All I have to say is, “What word are you working on?” and she says “Oh, yes! That’s right! Obey!” I will admit her response is certainly not absent of some sass and sighs, but nonetheless I am wowed by this vast improvement. The innovative idea that one word changes your life is tremendously successful because of it’s simplistic complexity. New Year’s resolutions are not new, and words have always inspired us, but this new way of thinking about a resolution has simplified and enhanced the power of the goal.
In the last couple of years, the topic of growth mindset has been buzzing about in my district and, it seems, everywhere else. Much of the professional development offered in my district as well as the professional development I’ve sought, has at least touched upon the issue of student mindsets. Carol Dweck, the pioneer in the field, has explained the importance of having a growth mindset. But the burning question is: How do we teach that to our students, all of them?
I’ve been giving some thought to the ways in which my mindset is fixed about certain things, yet malleable regarding others. How do I work with my struggling students to increase their perseverance and improve the effectiveness of their effort? How do I let students know that I will never give up on them, even if they themselves give up? How do I teach my high-achieving students that when something is hard, that doesn’t mean you’re not good at it, it just means that you haven’t figured it out yet? These are my questions and my challenges.