By: Rovi Hidalgo, M. Ed.
I noticed that the bulletin board outside her classroom was covered with student worksheets titled, “How can I have a growth mindset? What can I say instead?” I read students’ handwritten responses and nodded in agreement– these are important phrases, and I should use them too.
How Do Mindsets Impact Classrooms?
A student approached me the other day saying, “Ms. R., we have been in school for exactly 6 weeks.” I was surprised that it had only been this long; it felt like so much had happened since the first day of school. At this time, teachers in my building were busy preparing for parent teacher conferences as the end of the first term was nearing. One day when I was on my way to talk to a teacher, I noticed that the bulletin board outside her classroom was covered with student worksheets titled, “How can I have a growth mindset? What can I say instead?” I read students’ handwritten responses and nodded in agreement – these are important phrases, and I should use them too.
By now, you’ve probably heard of “growth mindsets.” The idea that intelligence is malleable and can grow was popularized by Dr. Carol Dweck in her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. The topic of mindsets is trending in education today.
Growth vs. Fixed Mindsets
A growth mindset is defined as, “a belief system that suggests that one’s intelligence can be grown or developed with persistence, effort, and a focus on learning” (Ricci, 2013). In contrast is the “fixed mindset,” defined as “a belief system that suggests that a person has a predetermined amount of intelligence, skills, or talents” (Ricci, 2013). The difference between the two mindsets is significant: the growth mindset focuses on what learners could do, while the fixed mindset focuses on what learners can or can’t do. Another way of looking at it is this; the growth mindset recognizes student effort and potential while the fixed mindset assumes that students cannot improve past their current performance.
What can a growth mindset do?
While the concept of the growth mindset is popular in education, a person’s mindset has implications in psychological health, too! Research on growth mindsets produced the following conclusions: (a) there are connections between mental health and mindsets; (b) growth mindsets impact a person’s use of strategies to regulate emotions; and (c) growth mindsets motivate individuals to engage [with therapy] (Schroder et al., 2017). It was also found that the impact of stressful life events (such as depression, stress, substance use) was weaker if someone had a growth mindset (Schroder et al., 2017). How cool is it to know that even someone’s perspective can have great health benefits?
“Research on growth mindsets produced the following conclusions: (a) there are connections between mental health and mindsets; (b) growth mindsets impact a person’s use of strategies to regulate emotions; and (c) growth mindsets motivate individuals to engage [with therapy].”
How can I encourage my students to have a growth mindset?
Teaching students to have a growth mindset will impact their academic engagement, motivation to learn and how the interpret failure/success. Here are some ways to build a growth mindset in your classroom:
- Teach students to rephrase negative thoughts, and reinforce them when they are used. One of the phrases I saw on a students’ worksheet was having them say, “I should try that again,” instead of, “I must be stupid because I got that problem wrong.” Sometimes, stopping those negative thoughts can be hard to do; teachers should reinforce their students for rewording their thoughts and statements as much as possible by using specific-praise.
- Model a growth mindset. Teachers are integral components in a child’s development – they teach, guide, and help students across situations and topics. Teachers can model using statements such as, “Well, I didn’t quite get it that time but I can try this strategy,” and even ask the class what other strategies can be used to address a problem.
- Praise students for putting in the effort for behavior and academic success. Behavior, in particular, can take a long time to change. If a teacher is attempting to implement a behavior intervention, or manage their classroom, be sure to praise and recognize students who do something appropriate even after they were engaging in inappropriate behavior before that. This encourages a growth mindset because it shows students that their effort is recognized, and they are not defined by their past experiences.
Evoke’s eLearning modules provides helpful strategies on how to praise students and give them positive recognition. Please contact us for more information on how to access our modules.