The new year is about making positive changes to our behaviours and mindsets, making it the perfect time to consider the growth mindset made popular by Carol Dweck in her 2006 book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. She explained the two mindsets she found in her subjects: fixed mindset and growth mindset.
Since this book became popular, teachers have been helping students identify when they have a fixed mindset (believing we have a fixed amount of intelligence and ability) and reframe their thinking with a growth mindset (believing we have limitless potential to learn and grow).
As teachers, we can access many resources to help support our students understanding of their mindset and how it affects their ability to learn. How we teach today and the language we use can greatly affect how our students see themselves.
Learning How We Learn Best
Talking about how a student learns best and identifying their strengths helps them celebrate what they currently do to learn successfully. It also highlights what they still need to work on to better improve their learning. Whether it is “finding a good fit spot” to learn in or getting started on work right away, this process allows students to focus on a goal. It also helps parents and students understand how we assess and report on learning behaviours. Reminding students of their learning behaviour goals can help them refocus on the learning process, recognizing their ability to learn.
Encouraging students to set goals for learning behaviours and specific subject areas, helps students to understand what they are aiming for and gives them ownership of their learning. Conferencing in small groups allows reflection and discussion time. Some students find this process quite easy by Grades three or four, others may need support and direction until they are older. Goal setting provides a focus for both the student and the teacher to move learning forward.
Mistakes Are How We Learn
Recognizing a mistake as a learning opportunity requires a mindset shift for many students. Regularly discussing the mistakes made and finding out what can be learned helps students reframe their thinking. The obvious place for this to start is math where there is a clear right or wrong answer. Talking about the thinking process allows students to understand how they calculate and listening to others provides a different perspective. Learning from our mistakes and seeing them as an opportunity changes how we approach everything.
The Power of Yet
Building resiliency in students can be challenging but having the language to understand what the “Power of Yet” means that students can understand the possibility of achieving their goal. A wonderful song from Sesame Street says it all:
“Keep trying and you will learn how.
Just breath don’t lose control
Keep trying and you’ll reach your goal
You just didn’t get it yet, but you’ll make it soon I bet
This is what you get with the power of yet.”
Learning is a Journey
Identifying learning as a continuum and helping students understand they are all in different places and that that is okay, takes time but is a worthy pursuit. For example, I ask my students to solve a one/two-step problem in math and when they are finished, they have an option to try a more complex word problem. They begin by highlighting the most important information, then find the math and the operations, then work out the steps. We always do this problem as a class later and students who completed the problem lead the discussion, explaining what they did. We talk about the fact that some students just completed step one where they highlight the important information, others are further along the process. The importance is placed on effort and learning from what we did, not the correct answer. This is all part of building understanding and respect for the learning journey.
We can all learn and grow by thinking about our mindset. Talking to our students about our own mindset and attitude towards learning helps reinforce what we are teaching. I tell myself I spell badly just to help my students see my growth mindset as I am publicly corrected by a student! Demonstrating mistakes and explaining what we learn from them helps students understand that everyone makes mistakes and what we learn them is important.
“You just didn’t get it yet, but you’ll make it soon I bet”
Written by Chris, a teacher in Manitoba