Words of Wisdom: How to Foster Growth Mindsets

I came across an article on Mindshift about how teachers and schools can influence student learning dispositions and mindsets, in What’s Your Learning Disposition? day four of the trip to

Being already familiar with Carol Dweck’s research into fixed mindsets and growth mindsets, it was useful to see some other practical ways in which academic mindsets can be fostered in the classroom. Some of the requirements for encouraging student self-motivation include:

  • Students feeling part of an intellectual community – helping them to see setbacks as a part of the learning process
  • Belief in self-efficacy and its contribution to academic success over ‘ability’
  • Belief in the work being done, that is, work that is relevant to their lives and interests
  • Belief in the plasticity of ability and intelligence, and that hard work and effort contribute to success (over a fixed intelligence).

Ways that schools can intentionally focus on fostering student learning dispositions lie in the detail of each class and interaction. Valuing risk-taking and failure over risk-aversion, as a means to learn from experience, is one such detail, and it is argued that failure should be built into learning so that it is not seen as the end-point but a process of renewal. As well as this, it is important to see assessment as an ongoing and iterative learning process that builds upon constructive feedback, with self-assessment playing an important role.

Even though classrooms tend to be dominated by structured and standardised test schedules, teachers have an important role to play in the language they deploy. The way that assessments are spoken about can promote a growth mindset. Framing it as a tool to help understand where students are, assessment can help to get them to where they want to be in reaching their learning goals. One suggestion I thought was novel and important was in taking a metacognitive approach, teaching students explicitly about the neuroscience around learning, including that the brain is malleable. “Giving them a reason to care about their approach to learning helps them connect it to their own lives”. The authors argue that creating this sort of transparency in the classroom should also be applied to the teacher, and being honest with students about the goals of educators means that we are modelling the approach that we’d like students to take.

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