What about the kids that don't "get" school? What about the kid who doesn't see the point or the purpose of sitting in a desk and doing assignments that have never motivated her in the past? Or the kid who is always assigned tasks that perpetuate the notion that he is simply "not that smart?"
The good news is that these students can be reached by the right kind of mindset by adults at every school. There is a sweet spot in education, where educators provide the optimal environment, support and standards and students find the motivation and purpose to own their education and work hard for success. This is especially important for disengaged and disadvantaged students. These are the students who most need schools that will help them experience school differently and overcome doubts about their own abilities. They need schools, in other words, that encourage "the growth mindset."
Here's Carol Dweck, Stanford University's growth mindset guru and researcher, talking about how Envision Education offers students a "winning combination" of high expectations and effective support:
Dweck describes research, done by her and by her Stanford colleagues, that highlights the factors making a difference for all youth, especially disadvantaged students. Schools can help these students succeed by promoting, by design and via daily instruction, messages that tell students:
- Your intelligence is something that can and will develop, with effort, good strategies, and support from this school
- You have a purpose. You are "doing school" so that you can contribute something to your family and to the world
- You belong here, in this school; this school is for you
- We, as your teachers, will set high standards for you, and we will give you what you need to succeed
When these messages are communicated well, educators can transform a student's experience of learning from disengaged to engaged and excited. Schools that respond to students' needs by giving them relevant and meaningful work and by developing strong, positive, and productive relationships with them will produce graduates with strong growth mindsets. Armed with the certainty that their own efforts can and will take them far, these students are poised to succeed, which isn't only good news for them and for their families: it's good news for our society as a whole.
Questions to Move Us Forward
- What is the most effective way to increase students' ownership of the work they do in your class and/or school?
- How do you help students gain a growth mindset who may believe that other kids are inherently smarter or more talented?
- How do we as adults in a school model (or not) a growth mindset for our students?
Please share your responses and your thoughts in the comments section below.