Students with a growth mindset embrace challenges by stretching themselves. With a growth mindset, students see mistakes as learning opportunities, and they learn from feedback. Instead of feeling like they’ve failed the task, students realize that they haven’t met the expectations... yet.
This past year, I showed students Carol Dweck’s TED Talk “The Power of Yet.” When discussing the video, students shared reactions relating to reworking assignments in my class. The idea of “yet” resonated with them.
When applied in a classroom, a growth mindset approach helps students progress. It allows all students, no matter where they are located on the continuum of mastery, to improve. Also, as Zaretta Hammond points out, growth mindset fits within culturally responsive teaching, since “students must believe they can succeed at learning tasks and have the motivation to persevere through challenging work.”
A growth mindset fosters student motivation, since people grow when they persist with challenging work. A teacher who embraces what Hammond calls a “warm demander” approach—characterized by a strong rapport with students, high standards, and support of productive struggle—helps students realize that effort is worth the work.
Retakes and Growth Mindset
For the past two years, I’ve offered multiple opportunities for my ninth-grade students to develop a growth mindset through retakes and the option to reworking assignments. After returning any assignment, I give students the chance to rework errors and earn additional credit within a two-week window.
For vocabulary assessments, students can correct their errors by rewriting on a separate paper, with the potential to earn up to half of the points they lost. If some errors still exist in their corrections, I offer another opportunity to make the corrections and resubmit. It’s important to me that students understand that their learning is most important, and placing an emphasis on continuous reworking helps model growth mindset.
I also provide opportunities for students to submit specific assignments for feedback, so that they can revise prior to the due date. For instance, when we transitioned to distance learning in March 2020, I encouraged students to submit any portion of their summative assessments early for feedback. I believe an approach that offers continuous opportunities to rework is just as possible in distance learning as when teaching students in the physical classroom.
Strategies for Planning for Fall 2020
Whether engaged in traditional classroom or remote teaching, I intend to focus on developing a growth mindset in my classroom this year in a variety of ways.
Survey: My beginning-of-the-year survey includes several questions regarding growth mindset, such as: How likely are you to take advantage of an opportunity to rework or submit work early for feedback? What would make you more likely to take advantage of the opportunity to rework or resubmit work? How would you describe your approach to taking on challenges and receiving feedback?
Opening up this dialogue gives me an accurate read on where students are at the beginning of the year. This won’t be the only time I have this conversation, though; holding both community circle conversations and individual conferences throughout the year will help my students and me examine ways that a growth mindset can continue to support learning.
TED Talk: I will show Carol Dweck’s TED Talk to engage students in a class discussion about her notion of the relationship between mindset and self-perception. I will use this to reinforce students’ own use of growth mindset language so that they internalize the concept of “yet.”
Self-reflection: I will reflect on my own language and attempt to incorporate more teacher-initiated growth mindset language, so that students understand how challenges support continuous growth. I will share my own experiences as an adolescent, a doctoral student, and a teacher, highlighting points at which I benefited from having a growth mindset—or how I could have benefited from having a growth mindset.
Continued growth mindset orientation: I plan to continue to offer students retakes and the opportunity to submit assignments early for feedback. I will continue to gather feedback via surveys to gauge perceptions of the effectiveness of this.
Embracing a warm demander approach: I will strive to be the warm demander that Hammond describes—so all students realize that putting in the effort is worth the work.