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What does it mean to say you have a growth mindset?  What does it mean to say that you facilitate a classroom that focuses on empowering students to have a Growth Mindset? Where are the gaps regarding the Growth Mindset in the classroom?  

New Light on Growth Mindset

Recently I listened to the Staffroom Podcast hosted by Chey and Pav. Episode 83 focused on the Growth Mindset. This particular episode from the  Staff Room Podcast showcased the well-known concept of The Growth Mindset. Several years ago, I read Mindset by Carol Dweck and continue to embrace The Growth Mindset vs. the Fixed Mindset. Anything is possible because of how I consider what The Growth Mindset says. If there is something that I want to accomplish, I know there is a way to grow into the role. It might be challenging, and success might not come quickly, but celebration comes from knowing that anything can be chased. 

How does Embracing Failure Look? 

Embracing failure looks like appreciating that moment when the athlete chucks the tennis racket, yells, or feels down after a race did not go as planned. Sometimes the reactions associated with failure are not traditionally praised or rewarded in the classroom. Failure is not processed the same by each student. And, arguably, how does the growth mindset look different for everyone?

How do teachers and parents maintain the balance between authentically showing what failing forward looks like, and showing students how to channel frustration productively, and allow it to fuel the passion to move forward?

Questions I need to Ask Myself

Chey and Pav offered a new perspective on the growth mindset. The podcast hosts discussed a few things related to the Growth Mindset and brought my understanding to a new level.  

  1. Does your classroom facilitate opportunities for students to embrace the growth mindset? 
  2. Does your classroom honor what it looks like to take risks, be challenged, and move forward when success is not linear? 
  3. Am I celebrating failures? And by celebrating, what do I do when students respond differently to not being successful? Am I excited when a student pounds the desk, says something out of frustration, 
  4. What do I need to foster and create before a growth mindset is even a possibility to be considered? What are the prerequisites for the growth mindset? 
  5. How can I show my students the growth mindset? Am I modeling the words and actions that are necessary? 
  6. How can I teach students about intrinsic motivation? 

My Experience With Failure

When I think about what I am asking my students to do, I cannot help but reflect on how I am showing up and embracing the growth mindset in my life. Right now, I am incredibly motivated and willing to see myself in the middle of the mess, embracing the process as a teacher who is navigating a new position with a different grade level and subject area. The growth mindset is appealing, and I am motivated to do whatever it takes to move toward mastery.  

Unlike my desire to push forward in my teaching position, embracing The Growth Mindset is sometimes a challenge. As a distance runner, I know that there will be training cycles where I am far from my goal. However, practicing resilience when things do not go as planned is not always easy but necessary to stay engaged.  

Grit and the Growth Mindset Needed for Engagement

The goal is to embrace grit and the Growth Mindset, as author Heather Lyon says in Engagement is Not a Unicorn. For students to be engaged, they have to be committed and resilient. Because thriving, being in a state of flow, and truly being absorbed in content takes a person through several ups and downs, it is important to focus on the intended outcome which takes a willingness to realize that growing beyond what seems possible is inevitable. 

What does Intrinsic Motivation Feel and Look Like? 

Lyon also suggests that Intrinsic motivation, or the act of doing something without any obvious external rewards. You do it because it is enjoyable and exciting, rather than because of an extrinsic incentive or pressure to do it, such as a reward or deadline is a big part of a willingness to embrace a growth mindset. It is easy to say that students “should” be motivated intrinsically. How can teachers teach students about intrinsic motivation so that they recognize what it feels like and seek out this type of feeling? How can we change the narrative in our classroom?

Easy to say tough to do- some of the best ways to foster intrinsic motivation are:

  1. Role-play or model aloud what it looks like to be intrinsically motivated and embrace a mindset of pride based on a journey rather than an outcome. 
  2. Share examples of success gained from hard work history, and literature. 
  3. Giving a choice whenever possible
  4. Set high expectations. Talk about the pursuit in school and life as a journey is never to be fully reached but as a process to enjoy.
  5. Challenging students to take risks and try new things. (See this as a point of pride)

The Growth Mindset Treasure Hunt

We see what we actively look for and are intentional about noticing. If we want students to embrace The Growth Mindset, we have to treat it as a regular treasure hunt to seek out examples representing what we hope students will work toward. Embedded in our curriculum, assignment, and daily routine, students need an opportunity to discover how this mindset looks, feels, and functions. Regular exposure to The Growth Mindset will remind students that it is a relevant and helpful way to approach all areas of their lives. With the right mindset, we can not lose, we either practice what we have learned, or learn what we need to practice. (Nudra)    

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1 comment

  • I am honored that my book, Engagement Is Not a Unicorn (It’s a Narwhal), has impacted your thinking and that you’ve connected the book to your really thoughtful reflection on the Growth Mindset! Thank you.

    Your students are really fortunate to have a teacher who is willing to grow and learn (and fail) and repeat the process over and over. Being a model to them in this way not only shows what’s possible, but also helps you to see how to create an environment that fosters this mindset for them!

    Heather Lyon on

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