Applying Growth Mindset: How Schools Can Embrace Challenges

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Teachers should no longer feel or be labeled as the all-knowing expert of their subject area or in their classrooms. Like our learners, we as educators should cultivate a growth mindset for ourselves, a term coined by psychologist Carol Dweck.

You may be asking, what is a growth mindset?

Sasha Crowley, an instructional designer at Brandman University concisely summarizes the difference between students with a fixed mindset versus a growth mindset:

Fixed mindset:

  • Their goal is to look smart.
  • They tend to avoid challenges.
  • They give up easily.
  • They do not see the point of effort.
  • They ignore feedback.
  • They feel threatened by the success of others.
Growth mindset:

  • Their goal is to learn.
  • They embrace challenges.
  • They persist when there are setbacks.
  • They see effort as the path to mastery.
  • They learn from feedback.
  • They find inspiration in the success of others. 

To encourage and develop a growth mindset in students, we should model and implement the key characteristics of a growth mindset in how we work. 

To successfully facilitate and cultivate a growth mindset in teachers and educators, many factors must work together amongst the schooling community. In the article titled “Developing a Growth Mindset in Teachers and Staff” by Keith Heggart, he shares four ways to encourage a growth mindset in teachers:

Modeling

Modeling is seen as one of the most effective methods in encouraging a culture of a growth mindset. Teachers should see themselves as learners, who are there to learn with the students and see that they too have the ability to improve and learn new things. When students see the passion of learning from their teachers, they too will be encouraged to embrace the learning journey.

Opportunities for new ideas

The willingness to try new things is an essential part of having a growth mindset. To encourage this in teachers, there should be more opportunities and space to do so in the school environment to try new approaches to teaching and learning with an emphasis on what is learned through the process. 

For example, schools can explore offering opportunities to employ action research into the constant improvement of a curriculum. 

Self-reflection

Built-in reflection time is crucial in helping teachers bring awareness to their practices to foster a growth mindset. The reflection should focus on what was learned through the process or journey rather than focus on the success of a new process/program. 

Formative Feedback 

Formative feedback is something we often use with students, but it is equally important in teacher performance management. School management should consider implementing formative feedback opportunities, rather than quarterly “summative” assessments of the teacher. Teachers need to feel that they are in a safe environment to give and receive constant meaningful feedback to improve their daily practices. 

The four areas mentioned above are important and it will take time to implement and establish as part of a schools’ management culture. Here are some ways that you can consider to practice a growth mindset.

Establish a community of practice with your colleagues

Involve your colleagues in your quest to foster a growth mindset. Establish seek colleagues to come together as a community of practice (Wenger-Trayner and Lave, 1991). By regularly meeting and engaging with a group of like-minded colleagues who share your concerns and passions will help you to constantly reflect and get feedback on your practice. What is also great is that through sharing, you may feel inspired to try new approaches!

Involve your students

The first step to modeling is to actually share your goals with your students. Tell them that you are constantly learning with them and you are learning to adopt a growth mindset. Additionally, welcome student feedback, actively ask students how they think you can improve, and become a better guide for them. You will be surprised by how enlightening their answers may be!

Change is the constant in our lives, and teachers have been thrown in the deep end the past year with the current pandemic shifting our usual practices but hopefully, this year, with a little change in perspective we will be ready to face any challenge ahead and innovate with a growth mindset.

– You can read more about Carol Dweck’s work here.

about
Eva
Eva is the Director of Education at BSD. She previously worked for a womens magazine but decided to blend her passion of Media and Education. She provides engaging opportunities for students to learn through authentic curricular experiences.
Eva found her calling in Education when she left her job at a Canadian women's magazine in 2012 to join the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme to teach English at an agricultural high school in rural Japan. Blending her passion in Media Studies and Education, she later returned to Hong Kong to pursue a Master of Education at the University of Hong Kong followed by a PGCE with the University of Sunderland.

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