Developing Growth Mindsets

This year, faculty and staff in the Lenox Schools are exploring ways to change our students’ perceptions and attitudes in ways that will result in more learning and more effective habits of learning.

Mindsets are broad mental frameworks that we use to view the world.  They can shape and influence the way we see things and they can influence the way we perceive our own strengths when it comes to learning.   Recent research from Carol Dweck, a Stanford University Cognitive Psychologist, identifies two types of mindsets that shape learner behavior and attitudes.  A Fixed Mindset sees ability as predetermined and unchangeable – you’re either good at something or you’re not.  “Math isn’t my thing.”  “I’m not artistic.” A Growth Mindset sees ability and potential as malleable – if you’re not good at something, you can change that through effort and persistence.  Maintaining a fixed mindset is limiting, even for high-achieving students.  Developing a growth mindset and the related qualities of persistence, grit, and determination will yield productive habits of mind that will last a lifetime.

This notion may feel somewhat obvious, but there is so much we do in modern education that seems counter-productive to the formation of growth mindsets: We over-focus on getting the right answer.  We recognize and praise intelligence more than effort. We frequently test and categorize students (Advanced, Proficient, Needing Improvement, etc.) based on one-time performance. While it is important to bring all of our students to a level of mastery, we must proceed thoughtfully and carefully.  We need to make sure that in our urgency to reach proficiency and ‘achievement’, we are not neglecting the development of skills and beliefs that will enable our students to be life-long learners.

Having identified the promotion of growth mindsets as a district focus, this year we will challenge ourselves to challenge our students in new ways.  We will teach students about the plasticity and potential of their minds.  We will encourage them to embrace errors as learning opportunities, and we will better support and praise the persistence and effort that comes with the work of learning.

To learn more about growth mindsets, check out this short video of Dr. Carol Dweck: