Guest post by Katie Varatta
Is there a goal you’ve recently set for yourself to learn something new or get better at any given task? What efforts or new strategies did you have to expel to reach that goal? How did you respond to failure, mistakes or setbacks? Reflecting on these three simple questions can be a first step to creating a culture of growth mindset in the classroom.
In her book, Ready-to-Use Resources for Mindsets in the Classroom, Mary Cay Ricci writes about “growth mindset” and “fixed mindset” as two approaches to learning. If someone has a growth mindset, they see intelligence as the “…result of practice, perseverance, resilience and grit.” Compared to a fixed mindset, in which intelligence is innate, something you are born with. Ricci goes onto explain, “… growth mindset is more of a philosophy than pedagogy. It is a way of thinking about our children and our self. It is not a new set of standards to learn, a kit to unpack or study, or a set of new instructional strategies… it is a way of thinking, a belief that one has about the potential and possibilities of our students.”
Ricci goes onto say that these mindsets are not black and white, rather a gray space. We all have an experience in which we learned something new with ease, it felt natural, where little effort was expelled. Just as each us can remember a time in which learning a certain subject or mastering a task felt impossible. How many times have we not heard the student say, or been the student saying, “I’m just not a math person”. However, simply telling someone to have a growth mindset won’t work. Rather if we want our students to take agency over their learning by setting goals, valuing effort, becoming motivated by failure then assessing our own learning process is a good place to start.
Fixed mindset: A belief system that suggests a person has a predetermined amount of intelligence, skills or talents.
Growth mindset: A belief system that suggests one’s intelligence can be grown or developed with persistence, effort and a focus on learning.
Mary Cay Ricci’s book is a good resource and includes many tools and resources to weave growth mindset exercises into your school and classroom. Some examples include mindset observation forms, lists of additional helpful books and samples of critical thinking strategy write-ups.