When a student enters a classroom, looks at an assignment, and instantly says, “I can’t do this,” they’re exhibiting what’s known as a fixed mindset. When a student is in this state, there’s little a teacher can do to motivate them. So what is the solution? Switching from this fixed mindset to a growth mindset can be the key to encouraging students to be open and willing to take on new challenges and helping them understand the impact their attitude has on their ability to achieve. Here’s a closer look at what a growth mindset is and how you can encourage your students to embrace it in your classroom.
What Is a Growth Mindset?
What does it mean to have a growth mindset? Growth mindset can be defined as believing that people’s basic qualities and abilities can be improved and increased through dedication and hard work. This belief indicates that brains and talent are just part of the picture of success. Someone with a growth mindset believes if they work hard, they can attain what they want to, even if their natural talents are not the same as someone else’s.
A person with a growth mindset also believes intelligence and basic abilities can change over time with the right effort. These are not fixed entities, but they can grow. In education, this mindset encourages students to value the effort they put into their education and the skills they gain rather than focusing only on the output or success.
A growth mindset for students involves four key components. These are:
1. Embracing Challenges
Someone with a growth mindset isn’t afraid of challenges. Instead, they view them as an opportunity and with hard work they can grow their skills and abilities.
2. Working Through Obstacles
This embrace of challenges allows someone with a growth mindset to push through obstacles or setbacks. In a school setting, students are empowered to keep working even when they don’t fully grasp a concept or understand the task at first.
3. Valuing Effort
A student with a growth mindset sees the value in the effort as well as the outcome. The skills gained when trying are just as important as achieving a particular goal.
4. Learning From Criticism and Finding Inspiration in Others’ Success
Finally, a growth mindset teaches someone to embrace and learn from criticism. When someone else is successful, a person with a growth mindset does not view others’ successes as negative things but rather as a place to find inspiration.
Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset
A growth mindset is in stark contrast to a fixed mindset. In a fixed mindset, the person believes intelligence and talent are part of who they are and do not change or grow over time. These are fixed traits, so they don’t spend time developing them. For example, a student who is not reading on grade level will decide that means they are a “bad reader” and shy away from reading.
In contrast, someone with a growth mindset believes their talent and intelligence can grow. This inspires them to keep working, even if they aren’t successful at first. This makes the learning experience more positive, even for students who may struggle, because the goal becomes progress and growth, not a particular success metric. Since the growth mindset says everyone has the capacity to develop their basic abilities through hard work, students feel inspired to put in the effort, and effort will create more learning.
Why Having a Growth Mindset Is Important in Education
In the education setting, a growth mindset changes a student’s attitude toward learning. The student begins to believe they are capable of learning and developing their basic abilities, and this causes them to work harder.
Hard work leads to increased productivity in the classroom, regardless of the age of the student. When students embrace a growth mindset, their harder work and positive attitude lead to better academic performance. The focus changes from reaching a particular score or grade to making progress instead, and progress will lead to academic achievement. Teachers spend their time encouraging students and modeling learning processes, and an overall positive mindset keeps them moving forward and pushing past their comfort zones.
Benefits of Embracing a Growth Mindset for Students
Embracing a growth mindset in your classroom benefits your students in several ways. You may notice the following gains:
Improves Communication Skills
Kids with a growth mindset want to learn from others. This naturally sparks better communication skills because the best way to learn from others is to communicate. In addition, students have more positive peer-to-peer interactions as they seek to help the entire class grow their talents.
Builds Greater Resilience When Faced With Failure
In a growth mindset, failure is viewed as a chance to learn and develop talents. It’s something to be embraced, not feared. This attitude makes students more resilient when they face failure in their academic pursuits.
Open-mindedness is the willingness to consider new information or ideas. It becomes a natural offshoot of having a growth mindset. Since the goal with a growth mindset is to grow talents and intelligence, students will want to learn ideas that work for others to see if they will work for themselves.
Boosts Academic Performance
Students with a growth mindset perform drastically better than those with a fixed mindset, according to research. In fact, it can be more impactful than other important factors, such as socioeconomic background, when predicting academic success. When students believe they can achieve better, they keep working at their academics, and they then more easily meet their goals.
Promotes Greater Creativity
Creativity is praised and rewarded in a classroom that has a growth mindset. Teachers and students alike realize that creative thinking is a great way to grow intelligence. Students are taught that brains are like muscles, and the more creative thinking we utilize, the stronger that muscle will grow. This emphasis helps develop creative thinkers.
Encourages Better Relationships With Adults and Peers
Teachers are not the adversaries in a classroom with a growth mindset. They are the encouragers who help students push harder to grow their abilities. Peers are not the competition. They are the people that students learn from and grow alongside.
The Connection Between a Growth Mindset and Reading Comprehension
Reading is often an area that students feel they can’t excel at, especially as they get to higher grades in elementary school, middle school, and high school. Yet adjusting students’ mindsets can change this.
When students embrace the philosophy behind a growth mindset, they see reading improvement, specifically in reading comprehension. In other words, when they believe they can increase their intelligence through effort, students are able to gain the skills they need to read and understand text and remember what they have read.
Strategies to Foster a Growth Mindset in the Classroom
So what can teachers do to encourage a growth mindset in their classrooms and see these types of gains? Here are some strategies to incorporate into your classroom.
Become a Model
You must model a growth mindset for your students. If you make a mistake, tell your students why you are happy you made it. Is there an area you struggle with, like math or spelling? Share this with your students and explain how you overcame roadblocks. When you face an obstacle, talk through your solutions to overcome that obstacle with them.
When students make mistakes and can view those mistakes as a part of the learning journey, they celebrate imperfection! If this is part of your classroom culture, students won’t feel embarrassed, but will learn to celebrate imperfection as a way to grow. After all, there’s a reason Bob Ross referred to mistakes as “happy accidents.”
Students need a model to evaluate and reflect on their work, both on their successes and on their failures. Craft lesson plans that give students an opportunity to reflect on constructive feedback from you and from their peers. Provide opportunities and model ways to self-evaluate and praise students when they can reflect on their efforts. Encourage curiosity not just about the world around them, but also about their own learning styles and talents.
Teach Students to Say “Yet”
A fixed mindset says, “I can’t read this book.” A growth mindset says, “I can’t read this book yet, but I will be able to.” This small word makes a big difference in a child’s internal dialogue, so model using it and teach students to use it. Think of changing these words as a mindset intervention that will help your students as they are developing a growth mindset.
Encourage Cooperative Learning
A growth mindset teaches students to ask for help and work with others to create a positive outcome. Foster this by developing cooperative exercises that encourage students to work together to solve the problems they face. Cooperative learning also takes an emphasis off of individual outcomes—which makes students compete against each other—and places the focus on helping each other develop their individual abilities while working together.
Overcoming obstacles is an essential part of the growth mindset, but in order to do this, students must face obstacles. Don’t shy away from giving students complex problems or assignments to solve, and give them opportunities to grow their abilities and work on problem-solving.
Use Beanstack in Reading to Encourage Growth Mindset
Finally, consider adding a tool like Beanstack to your classroom to encourage a growth mindset. Beanstack encourages students to keep going by rewarding minutes spent reading, regardless of the number of pages read in that time. This allows all students to achieve and rewards them for their effort, which is in line with the growth mindset.
How Does Beanstack Support a Growth Mindset?
Reading abilities and a growth mindset are directly connected; one study found that students who have lower reading comprehension achievement at the end of fourth grade also tend to have a fixed mindset. Not only does having a growth mindset help improve reading abilities, but more reading encourages the development of skills, which further supports the growth mindset. The two work hand in hand.
Beanstack uses unique gamification features that strengthen kids’ intrinsic motivation to read and improve their reading skills over time. Students build healthy reading habits as they keep working to achieve rewards like digital badges and reading streaks. Teachers and school librarians can boost positive motivation with reading challenges that offer students prizes and rewards for meeting and exceeding goals. Beanstack’s robust reporting features help identify when students meet a benchmark and help target interventions for students who may be falling behind. As part of a classroom or school that’s embracing a growth mindset, Beanstack can be a valuable tool.
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