Teaching Tuesday: Building a Resilient Classroom Culture that Promotes a Growth Mindset

By Dr. Marjaneh Gilpatrick, Tracy Vasquez and Emily Pottinger

teacher instructing her students in the classroom

One of the trending topics in education is about the growth mindset. What exactly is it? And how can educators build a growth mindset with their students in their classrooms? Below are some practical suggestions for consideration.

Model Continuous and Flexible Learning

When faced with a dilemma, demonstrate how you would face it by sharing your thought processes with your students. Demonstrating how you try to resolve the issue provides the students a model of how to face challenges and apply relevant problem-solving strategies. For example, using a new app such as Flipgrid can turn frustrations into curiosity. At times, students can provide solutions that others may not have contemplated.

Cultivate a Safe Learning Environment

When educators consistently model learning and flexibility, they help cultivate a learning environment that allows for opportunities to grow from failures. When educators make an error, they can highlight it and seek the students’ input on how to correct the error. By practicing this type of behavior, students will be more likely to not be embarrassed when they make a mistake. They will also be more prepared to support each other in fixing mistakes. For instance, if a student arrives at a wrong solution for a multiplication problem, other students can guide their classmate in solving the problem together, justifying their approach and arriving at the correct solution as a team.

Embrace Learning Experiences That Challenge Students

Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) supports the idea of creating lessons and experiences that stretch the students’ cognitive abilities so they are gaining new knowledge and skills. These can be applied in project-based lessons that are relevant and meaningful to students and their world. For example, when students are learning about World War 2 and the Holocaust, they often read books such as “Number the Stars.” During a literature circle with mixed ability groupings, students could collaborate with one another to explore the various themes and ideas in the book. Additionally, they can compare and contrast those themes with current events.

Provide Succinct and Meaningful Feedback

As a teacher, you can have meaningful dialog with your students to provide feedback on their performances and set Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely (SMART) goals. For instance, when discussing a student’s essay, the teacher can indicate how well the student conveyed his/her ideas, used varied sentence structures and employed a variety of word choices. Afterwards, they can collaborate to set SMART goals for the next assignment.

Growth mindset is based on the idea that one’s abilities are developed as a result of intentional efforts. When educators provide an environment that allows for this to happen, students are more likely to grow and develop academically, socially and emotionally. One of the biggest things to remember about having a growth mindset is that it’s a journey that does not come automatically and often is a continued process.

In order to start or continue on this journey, we have to set the stage or the environment to ensure it is conducive to the growth mindset process. How is your classroom culture? Is it one that fosters a growth mindset? One of the first steps to this is learning what to say to yourself and your students. A recent Education Week article by Carol Dwek mentions a few great examples that can be implemented in your classroom today. For example:

  • Instead of saying “I am not a math person,” add “yet” to the end of the sentence. “I am not a math person yet.”
  • Remind students, “The point is not to get it all right away. The point is to grow your understanding step by step. What can you try next?”

Interested in learning more about growth mindset? Listen to COE’s Top of the Class Podcast episode on the topic. Check out all of the articles from Teaching Tuesday and return each week for a new post. To learn more about the College of Education and our degree programs, visit our website and join in our efforts to elevate the education profession.

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