My Students’ First Experience with Growth Mindset

If you’ve read my last post, then you probably know exactly what I activity I did with my students to truly help them experience growth mindset, if you haven’t, I will give you a brief synopsis, I got the idea here

The principle of the activity is to have your students experience growth mindset rather than talk to them about it. I gave my students a challenge, which many of you experienced in a recent lesson during our course, EDTE 501.

Very little instructions were given to students; I had several of the following card-stock models displayed throughout the classroom.

Struggle-Blog--7-of-9-
Borrowed from Tim Bowman’s post

Students were instructed to take out scissors; few instructions were given regarding the completion of the task however the following guidelines were set out:

  • Recreate this
  • Work at your desks, you can discuss quietly with someone next to you.
  • If you need to get a closer look, you can stand and  look at a model close-by, but you cannot touch it.
  • The adults in the room are observing and cannot answer your questions.
  • You only have one piece of paper for this activity; we cannot give you a second one.

As students started the task, I carefully monitored my watch and the time I would give them to “struggle”.

It was interesting to observe. Some students immediately started by cutting their paper; others looked at the models carefully and developed a plan regarding how and where they would cut their paper, some students put their scissors down and decided not to attempt the challenge.

As students discussed, I quietly noted some of the statements being expressed on the board. “How?” “I am confused!” “This is impossible!”

I gave students more time to continue and persevere as some were very dedicated to the task and tried to figure out how to accomplish the challenge they were presented with.

“This is impossible!”

One student approached me and said “I know how to do it now but I just need another piece of paper”. I was worried regarding this student’s response and how I would reply as in the past I have observed tears when this student encountered challenges. I kindly told the student “Sorry, only one piece of paper”.

I allowed students to work through for roughly 5-7 minutes before I announced the end of the task as I noticed many had stopped attempting the task; the teacher must be careful here not to let students get too discouraged, however this can be challenging when you’re not engaging orally with your students, therefore, for our class, this signaled the end of the challenge.

growthmindset1
Picture of our fixed and growth mindset statements

I asked students some of the following questions:

  • Did someone manage to recreate the model?
  • How long did this take you?
  • How many tries?
  • Were the first ten seconds different than the last ten seconds? How? Why?
  • What did you think when/if you saw someone else re-create the model?
  • How many tries did you take?
  • How long did you look at the model before starting?

This created discussions regarding the different strategies used, I also had students do A-B partner shares before sharing out their answers.

Later, I asked students what I had written on the board, and why they thought I had written this. A student quickly noted that those were the statements they were uttering during their work.

I then added the title “Fixed Mindset” and underlined it in red. We talked about how a fixed mindset can stop us from persevering. I used an example relating to hockey and a dance concert (these are some prominent hobbies in our class) and what would happen if a hockey player was saying these things in their mind during a match, or a dancer before going on-stage, students discussed the possible results with a peer then shared out.

Further, we worked as a class to adapt or change the fixed mindset statements to more positive, “growth mindset” statements. This created our new column parallel to the fixed mindset and helped students explicitly experience the new vocabulary.

Students then ripped a piece of paper from their model they had attempted to create to write a growth mindset statement they liked and could place on their desk to help them when they encountered challenges in their work. We discussed how these statements could impact our ability to persevere and push through challenges. This had signaled the start of our growth mindset journey as a classroom community.

How do you think your students would experience this challenge? Can you envision this stimulating thought provoking discussions in your classroom? Why or why not? What might be missing or needed?

How to Teach About Growth Mindset…

I get a sense that this is the post many of you have been waiting for, the juicy post with all the details and all the strategies and ways to introduce, teach and talk about growth mindset in the classroom.

I will stop you all right there with a disclaimer: I don’t have the answer to the above question. However, I will share what I have trialed, the different things I have learned and ideas I have or have found around teaching your students about growth mindset. I don’t believe there is one way or even a right or wrong way to MUTCD_R1-1.svgteach about growth mindset… and that attitude demonstrates a growth mindset in itself.

However, I do think there are some considerations to reflect upon when thinking about teaching this mindset to your students. First and foremost, educators must understand growth mindset and be willing to demonstrate it daily in their every-day including in their teaching before they start talking to their students about it. However, if you were to notice that you’ve got a fixed mindset, but you have the awareness and the belief of the strength and importance of a growth mindset, I believe it would be an exciting time and opportunity to embark on the learning journey alongside your students. It is crucial you remember the importance of your students’ emotional well-being throughout your teaching and activities as this is at the core of their mental health and will support your teaching overall.

Where did I start? Through listening to the audio book “Mindset for Success” I learned to gain a greater understanding of fixed and growth mindset and instances where I may have seen one or the other in my daily life.

Halfway through the audio book, I hadn’t gotten a sense of concrete ways to teach about growth mindset, however that may be for a few reasons:

  • Perhaps it is because I am more of a visual learner rather than auditory, I may not have been grasping the full concepts
  • Perhaps because Mindset for Success is not a guide for teachers and teaching about growth mindset, it simply teaches you about the concept and gives you examples where it may be seen.
  • Perhaps I needed to tap into other sources.

I needed to find an engaging and fun way to teach my students about growth mindset. Take a look at the blog post that I stumbled upon here: “Teaching Kids to Struggle

What are your thoughts regarding teaching kids to struggle? What considerations might you have in mind regarding this challenge you might present to your students? In my next post, you’ll hear how this experience went for my students in my Grade 4 French Immersion practicum class.

What is Growth Mindset?

If you’ve read my first two posts already, you might still be wondering what is growth mindset and why I think it is important. A simple way to understand the difference between growth and fixed mindset is explained below with the help of Sylvia Duckworth’s work put into a graphic.

growthmindset
Created by Reid Wilson @wayfarepath (Twitter)

A fixed mindset refers to one’s belief that they are born with a certain amount of intelligence and that they this will be their experience for their life. Parents’ sharing of their “thought to be” innate skills and abilities can further reinforce a fixed mindset for their children. For example if a child hears their parent say “I was never good at math, sorry, I can’t help you”. This reinforces to the child that this information is fact and cannot be changed or improved upon.

A growth mindset is the belief that one can develop skills and achieve anything they set their mind to. Those who utilize a growth mindset think in terms of “I can” and “I will”. Further, a growth mindset recognizes the value in failure and mistakes and that these help us to learn and grow.

Another way to describe the fixed mindset is “all or nothing thinking”. This used to be me. I often thought if something bad happened in my day it meant I had a really bad day, I came to a point that I started recognizing good moments in otherwise challenging days and I focused on those to say that I had a good day instead and that I overcame challenges because I was able to.

Can you think of a time or a moment where you’ve had a fixed mindset and how you could alter that statement to reflect a growth mindset?

Teaching and Learning about Growth Mindset – The Plan

In order to effectively learn more about growth mindset, I thought I should have a general plan though some of this has come more as part of a process. My primary source of information will be found through the purchase of Carol Dweck’s audio-book: Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Listening to this audio-book on a regular basis and consulting different blog posts will help me to gain an understanding of growth mindsets as well as why they are important.

Screenshot_2018-01-02-14-45-18
Screenshot of my Audible App listening to Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

Further, exploration of blogs can help provide more concrete evidence of ways to apply and encourage students to practice growth mindsets. However, before I can begin to teach about it and have my students experience it, I must gain an understanding of what these mindsets entail first and foremost.

Once I have gained an understanding and listed different ways and strategies to share the learning with my students, I will need to develop and outline the vocabulary in French as I am teaching in a French-immersion classroom.

Many graphics to support this concept can be found on Pinterest which links out to different blogs, a couple of my favourites that I have taken a look at include: Mon cahier d’écolier  and Musings from the Middle School Classroom.