Remember going in after recess to take a 20-question arithmetic quiz in elementary school? If you were the first to finish, you were wise. If it appeared to be simple for you, you were also wise.
Over time, real assessment and individualized learning have begun to alter the perception of what it means to be “smart.” When used in conjunction with Carol Dweck’s study on growth mindset, learners embrace growth, openness, and the development of innovative ideas and solutions.
The way we provide feedback as educators and parents can send a message about not only how we view the learning, but also how we view the learner, and this is important.
Learners must be taught the basics of learning science so that they can better understand conditions, context, and thrive to create a learning culture that embraces a growth mindset. They must also practice giving thoughtful feedback to cultivate a growth mindset in their own lives and their organizations.
Traditional underprivileged populations are more likely than other groups to develop a fixed mindset as a result of systematic disparities in the educational system. Children from traditionally underserved backgrounds – such as students from low-income families, English learners, Hispanics, and African-American students – are less likely than their peers to have “a growth mentality,” says a recent Brookings Report. Mindset, like intelligence, can not remain static, and learners who receive the appropriate support can shift from a fixed to a growth mindset.
For children to thrive, or as Goldy Muhammad would put it, have their genius recognized, both instructors and students must be committed to cultivating a growth mindset consistently. Some students may enter with a clear sense of who they are and what is possible, whereas others will require more assistance in imagining a reality that alters their course for the better.
The importance of teachers not underestimating the abilities of their students cannot be overstated. Furthermore, to address the harm caused by systemic racial inequities in education, educators must believe that their historically underrepresented students can achieve the same rigorous content as their dominant-culture peers.
The process of cultivating a growth mindset culture does not end with awareness. Putting into practice the following tactics and tools for learners allows them to feel more empowered in their learning and to have a greater impact on their growth.
1. Build Trust and Relationships by Nurturing Them
When students are heard, trust and relationships begin to build. Students, particularly those who have experienced personal and/or generational trauma, require trustworthy relationships to feel comfortable in a learning culture. Consider how pupils will realize that their voices are being heard when you’re designing.
This helps to form relationships and creates an environment in which trust can be earned and praise can be received. Educators can use the “Four Elements of Trust” to guide their approach and be deliberate in their approach. Consistency, compassion, competence, and communication are the Four Elements of leadership.
Choose or develop techniques to capture and cultivate student voice daily, as well as to encourage collaboration. Consider how you will learn and how you will collect insights into how pupils feel about themselves and how they learned or did not learn on a specific day.
It is possible to implement or activate deliberate frameworks to shift students’ mindsets from fixed to growth-oriented when they express that they do not feel clever, that they struggle, or that they do not feel as capable as their classmates. When learners are validated and affirmed, they are more likely to be seen, to feel appreciated for their contributions, and to be more receptive to learning opportunities.
When teachers place learner ideas at the heart of their lesson, they send a message to pupils that they respect and value their thoughts.
2. The Brain and How It Functions in the Process of Learning
Learners must gain an understanding of the brain and how it functions. A staged method to teaching science can be used, but the most important aspect is directly emphasizing that the brain is not fixed at birth and that it evolves and grows as a person grows and develops (this idea is often referred to as neuroplasticity).
The ability to comprehend how long-term learning takes place and the role that stress and anxiety play in this process allows learners to have a greater understanding of their bodies and development phases, as well as how they may have a positive effect on their learning.
There are numerous tools to be used and tales to be shared that will assist you in your efforts to “rewire” your brain. How Your Brain Works is covered in depth in the MindUP Curriculum for grades K-8. (See below for an example video for grades 3-5.) When it comes to providing parent help in teaching about the brain, MindsetWorks refers to this work as Brainology and Growing Early Mindsets (GEM), and additional information about it can be found on their website.
3. Growth and Fixed-Income Thinking, and the Difference Between the Two
Educating students on the distinction between a fixed mentality and a growth mindset is a frequent initial step for those aiming to establish a learning culture, but this phase will often have a greater impact when students are first educated on the science of how we learn, as stated in phase two above.
MindsetWorks offers a variety of materials for educators who want to learn more about mindsets. When a mixed mindset is identified, the Mindset Continuum chart begins to depict the progression of the mindset and provides indicators for advancement.
Many common fallacies about learning cultures exist, and it is worthwhile to become acquainted with a few of the numerous recent papers that address them.
4. The Importance of Feedback and the Influence of Praise
Providing feedback, and particularly praise can have a significant impact on a learner’s inner voice because the feedback we give sets the tone for how we view learning and how students perceive themselves as learners.
While some learners are immediately motivated by hearing that they did a good job, others may interpret it as being inauthentic because a connection of trust has not been formed with the instructor.
When praise is not immediately accepted, it can appear as if the student is being disrespectful or stubborn, but it could also be that the student does not believe that he or she is deserving of the praise due to low or null self-esteem, which could be the case.
Doctor Joy Degruy states that “individuals arrive at their self-esteem in three ways: first, as a consequence of the appraisals of significant others in their lives; second, as a result of having their contributions correctly recognized; and third, as a result of the significance of their own lives.”
The implementation of praise should be done in three stages, with the first stage, connection development, being the most significant. The tendency for learners, particularly black and brown learners, to feel submissive might make it difficult for them to receive and appreciate praise.
When praise is given, especially in a broader societal context, it is frequently for abilities unrelated to academics, which serves to reinforce the belief that praise for being “smart” is not for them and therefore cannot be accurate.
Whenever productive problems occur, we should acknowledge that we are in the process of learning, and learning is not an easy process to go through. What we choose to reward in our opening example of arithmetic quizzes sends a message to the students.
Instead of highlighting when things were simple or quick, we might attract attention to the production challenges that occurred.
Teachers can practice expanding their repertoire of ways to provide feedback and appreciation to their students. One simple method of accomplishing this is to go over suggested sentence stems or compliments, such as those supplied by Mindset Works, and review them to assist build a feedback toolkit of words.
5. Making Use of Your Inner Voice or Self-Talk
When it comes to changing a mentality, learners want tools that allow them to reframe their inner voice and develop productive self-talk as they approach obstacles. Awareness of a fixed mindset, or even awareness of negative self-talk, is a useful first step; but, it is also vital to provide tactics and resources to help people improve.
Teaching tactics encourage all students to have confidence in their abilities and in their ability to develop their intelligence.
To begin, make conscious observations of your learners that are more like running records rather than making fast assumptions about their behavior. Kristine Mraz and Christine Hertz Hausman go into greater detail about this in their book, A Mindset for Learning, which includes a chart illustrating observable behaviors of learners as well as examples of self-talk that may be occurring during those behaviors.
They propose keeping an eye out for groups of learners who may not get started right once, or who may become stuck or delayed. To observe whether students may only attempt a task once or which students may persevere on a minor assignment.
These observations will aid in the preparation of future discussions and conferring opportunities in which learners will be asked to reflect on a recent struggle and how they felt throughout the process.
A class list might also be created by collecting examples of unproductive self-talk and brainstorming alternate strategies. See an illustration of this practice in the following section.
As trust and culture develop, classmates can practice with a trusted partner, or this list can be shared for peers to use as a resource for one another as the culture matures. When the language used by peers changes, the learning environment changes as well.
Through the development of a student culture of trust, respect, and agency in addition to the regular application of growth mindset thinking, students will feel accepted and ready to take on new learning challenges while encouraging the rest of their learning community to do the same.