Inclusion Corner: Encouraging our students to have a growth mindset
| September 16, 2014
Inclusion Corner is a monthly look at effective instructional strategies for inclusive classrooms.
Have you ever found yourself wishing that you could create a community of students who are self-motivated and persist with challenging tasks? Do you have a student that gives up after making one mistake? Why do some students give up so quickly? How do we encourage our adolescents who have undergone so many failures with math or reading?
Carol Dweck, a leading researcher in the field of motivation, has posed there are two groups of people in the world: people with a "growth mindset" and those persons with a "fixed mindset." Those who embrace the growth mindset usually reach ever-higher levels of achievement and have a greater sense of free will, whereas those holding the fixed mindset plateau early and achieve less than their full potential.
Those who hold true to the growth mindset believe intelligence is malleable, which leads to a desire to "learn from mistakes" instead of "looking smart," and a tendency to embrace challenges and persist in the face of setbacks. Whereas, those stuck in the fixed mindset usually avoid challenges, give up easily when facing an obstacle, and see effort as fruitless and ignore useful feedback.
Research has shown that when children — particularly minority students, students with disabilities and females in STEM-related fields — embrace a growth mindset they tend to excel at higher rates. The good news is that educators can teach students how to develop and utilize a growth mindset.
Step 1: Talk to students about their brains and the difference between growth mindset and fixed mindset.
Share with students that we all learn differently. We all have a variety of talents and areas for improvement. Post or create a visual poster of the various intelligences (musical, interpersonal, logical, naturalist, etc.) and be sure to vary instructional approaches to incorporate various learning modalities for student success.
Facilitate discussions with students that our brains are like a muscle that gets stronger and works better the more it is exercised. Every time you work hard, stretch yourself and learn something new, your brain forms new connections and over time you actually become smarter. Check out this student-friendly video to guide classroom discussion on mindset:
Step 2: Use specific praise focused on student behavior.
Utilize praise to reinforce your belief that students can achieve at high levels through hard work and effort. Focus on highlighting student effort throughout a task, not only the final product.
Step 3: Explicitly teach "effort" and what effective effort looks and sounds like.
The word "effort" can be quite ambiguous to students. What does effort look and sound like? How do I know if I have employed effective strategies to solve a problem or decode a unknown word?
For more examples of effort rubrics and free resources, visit Mindset Works.
Step 4: Celebrate mistakes and the complexity of the learning process.
The more we show students that learning involves mistakes and that errors are a natural part of problem solving, the more students will be willing to take risks, try harder tasks and persist with challenges.
A great classroom activity I encourage teachers to do is "My Favorite No," a math activity where the teacher acknowledge mistakes are a part of learning and growth. Here is a video of "My Favorite No" to explain a little more:
To read more about growth vs. fixed mindset, see Dweck's book "Mindset."
My next few articles will focus on effective co-teaching practices to increase student achievement.
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