Saturday, March 29, 2014

Supporting Students by Modeling & Developing a Growth Mindset

Perseverance, resilience and innovative thinking all require a growth mindset. As educators we need to model a growth mindset and be open to building experiences that put students at the center of learning where they can take risks and grow from challenges.  

Working at an all-girls school, leading many of our STEM initiatives and programming across the school, I believe it's particularly important for me to foster and develop a culture that promotes a growth mindset. For girls to persevere and grow their interest and competency particularly in STEM, they need to be confident in providing and giving feedback. Having empathy for others is a very valuable piece of problem solving - as is giving and receiving quality feedback that promotes progress and confidence.
Image By Jenna
The concept of the growth mindset comes from the work of Stanford Professor Carol DweckAccording to Dweck, mindsets "frame the running account that’s taking place in people’s heads." They guide the whole interpretation process. 

The fixed mindset creates an internal monologue that is focused on judging. 
A fixed mindset is also defined by a belief that talent and intelligence are innate. People with a growth mindset are also constantly monitoring what’s going on, but their internal monologue is not about judging themselves and others in this way. While they are sensitive to positive and negative information, they stay attuned to its implications for learning and constructive action: What can I learn from this? How can I improve? 

Students with a growth mindset believe that innate talents and intelligence are just the starting point, and can be cultivated through hard work (Mindsets, p.7).
Dweck’s studies have also focused on the effects of “process praise,” which means praising effort or strategy. In recent research, Dweck found that the greater use of process praise with very young children predicted their later desire to take on new challenges, which in turn influenced these children’s math achievement seven years later. “Kids are thrilled by the idea that they can grow their brains through their effort and strategy,” Dweck says. “Praising strategy and focus and improvement gives them actionable information and a reason to try hard.”

Dweck suggests three ways teachers can shape their students’ mindsets by:

  1. Setting high expectations – Students don't learn by simply being celebrated. They need to be challenged.
  2. Praise the process – Feedback shapes a student’s mindset. Words reflecting permanent traits (e.g., “You must be smart to have done so well!”) lead students to develop fixed mindsets. To encourage the development of a growth mindset, focus feedback on effort and process. “You did well on this test. Tell me how you mastered the content?”
  3. Create risk-tolerant learning environments – allow students to fail and experiment. Communicate that you expect mistakes will be made. 
Do you foster a learning environment where students can see the growth mindset in action? Do you create a space for them to have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset?  
What examples can you share of where a growth mindset is demonstrated in your classroom?


-Lisa Abel-Palmieri, Ph.D. (@Learn21Tech

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