By Jenny Bergs, DAHS Math Teacher
When eating lunch with my teacher colleagues, one word has been mentioned more recently. This word is “yet”. On the occasion when someone says that they can’t do something, one of us soon jumps in with the word “yet”. “You can’t do that, yet, you mean!” We’ve been focused on the word yet because we’ve been working on developing our growth mindsets as well as our students’ growth mindsets.
Growth mindset is all about the power of yet, believing that one can learn and grow with effort, perseverance, and hard work. On the other hand, having a fixed mindset is having the belief that there is an innate ability that allows someone to excel in something and that this ability is unable to change. We want all of our students to reach their highest potential, which is why we’ve been working on developing growth mindsets for ourselves and our students.
There are several ways that we can develop growth mindsets:
- Give positive feedback on process and strategies. Instead of saying, “you’re really smart”, try saying “you worked really hard on that” or “that was a great strategy you used to solve that math problem”. Positive feedback on process and strategies will help students attribute their success to hard work and the strategies they use to learn new things. When students face a challenge, they will be more motivated to overcome that challenge when they know that hard work and the right strategies can be applied to help solve the situation. If a student with a fixed mindset faces a challenge, they would be more likely to shut down because they may believe that they didn’t have enough intelligence to overcome the challenge.
- Explain that our brains can grow. It’s important for students to know that their intelligence is not fixed. They can improve their intelligence, and their brains can change as they learn more things. One study looked at brain activity when the subjects of the study were given a challenging task. The brains of the subjects with a growth mindset were much more active than the brains of the subjects with a fixed mindset.
- Encourage learning from our mistakes and failures. Everyone makes mistakes and fails at times, but people with growth mindsets believe that they can learn from their mistakes and persevere until they find success. When kids make mistakes, we can have them reflect on what they learned from their mistakes and encourage them to keep trying.
- Model growth mindset language. If we want our kids to use growth mindset language, then we should model growth mindset language.
For more information on growth mindset, please check out the following resources:
- Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset: An Introduction (YouTube video)
- The power of believing that you can improve (Ted Talk)
- Teaching Growth Mindsets (YouTube video)
- 5 Parenting Strategies to Develop (article)