Growth mindset is easy to say. Helping students develop a growth mindset can be challenging. Let’s start with data, goals, and reflection.
Growth mindset is not about making kids feel good about themselves and praising their effort despite lack of growth. It is not about saying things like, “At least you tried your best.” Growth mindset is about understanding that who we are now and what we know now isn’t fixed. We can change and we can grow. Effort is a part of that growth but so are strategies.
Imagine you want to build a mountain. You are picking up one rock at a time and placing it in a pile. The pile is slowly growing. Your teacher walks by and says, “Wow! Look at you! Great effort!” and walks away. Are you really going to be able to build a mountain? Not any time soon. Chances are you’ll give up before you reach your goal.
Imagine instead that your teacher stops and says, “Wow! Look at you! You’ve made some progress. Let me introduce you to some tools that can make this job a bit more manageable.” At first she introduces a wheelbarrow and a partner. Once you’ve developed the ability to steer, she starts introducing more and more tools. Next thing you know, you are leading a construction crew with all the tools you need for the job and that mountain becomes a real possibility.
While the assignments we give may not feel like a mountain to us, it may feel that way to our students. If we give them encouragement and tell them to work hard, that is part of the process, but giving them the tools they need is going to lead to meaningful growth.
Growth Mindset: Data
I love data. I love tangible proof that what I’m doing is or isn’t working. It helps me make decisions and keeps me from wasting my time.
Students often think they already know how to do something. As an intervention teacher, I often have kids ask me, “Why am I here?” Many students, especially students that tend to learn easily, think they know something and then tune out during instruction. Let’s face it, who hasn’t tuned out of a staff meeting or PD when we felt like something was too elementary and a waste of our time?
This is why I like to start with a pretest. It doesn’t have to be long. It can be just a question or two. But, there is power in letting students see immediate data that let’s them know they haven’t something to learn. (There is also power in finding out they don’t need that skill and need to be challenged.)
Pretests can increase student engagement. Even reluctant or overconfident learners are ready to listen when they realize they don’t know how to do something. Often in math, they realize specifically what they don’t know and it helps them focus.
Not every child is going to get 100%. Not every child is going to get 70%. But, every child can grow. When a student knows they had a 0 on a pretest and then they get a 50% on the post test, it isn’t as discouraging as getting a 50% on a posttest that didn’t have a pretest. The struggling student can see growth. The skill may not be mastered YET, but the student has hope.
Growth Over Time
Monthly comparisons can be valuable. Growth doesn’t always happen quickly, tracking a skill over the course of the school year can be meaningful.
Some monthly/quarterly skills tracking ideas:
- Monthly Writing Assessment
- Reading Inventories
- Sight Words
- Benchmark Assessments
When students are given the opportunity to track their growth over time, they can see that they do in fact grow. Students, with guidance, can begin to see the connections between effort, strategies, and success.
Growth Mindset: Goal Setting
When I first started teaching, I figured the kids knew the goal was to pass the test. When I started actually teaching students how to set goals, I was amazed by the progress they could make.
Teaching students to set challenging yet obtainable goals isn’t a new concept. Lev Vygotsky introduced the concept to teachers in the 30s when he coined the phrase Zone of Proximal Development. While educational trends have come and gone in the last 80-90 years, the importance of goal setting hasn’t changed.
One of the most powerful ways to set goals, is to set goals based on data. When students understand their previous scores and what it will take to get the score they want, setting a goal is a form of commitment to action. Setting vague goals isn’t as helpful.
Another important part of goal setting is understanding the success criteria. Once your students understand what it looks like to be successful, they can begin to envision the steps they need to get there. If you’d like to read more about success criteria, check out this guest blog post I wrote.
Growth Mindset: Reflection
Sometimes when we get data driven, we just keep pushing forward. That can be exhausting.
It is important to stop and look back at our data and celebrate the milestones and think about the challenges. As adults reflection comes somewhat naturally to us. I find it helpful to teach my student to reflect. I love using quotes to get them thinking.
Check out my Growth Mindset Pinterest Board
Goal Setting, Data Tracking, and Reflection: A Digital Resource
All the example pictures in this blog post were from my Goal Setting, Data Tracking and Reflection for the Google Classroom Resource.
I want my students to track data, set goals, and reflect all year. So, I created a Digital Resource that uses Google Slides. All you need to use it is a free Google Email Account for yourself and your students. (We don’t have Google Classroom at my school but that doesn’t stop us.)
Update: On September 4th, I updated the resource. Now there are more data slides, more goal setting slides and more than 30 new reflection slides!