Ready, MINDSET, Go!

April already?! How did that even happen! And now we’re in the legendary testing season of school: thousands of #2 pencils sharpened, hundreds of test booklets sorted and stacked, jillions of bubbles bubbled, millions of teachers and students feeling anxious. Like it or not, if you’re part of a public school community these days, testing season is a THING, and we’re all feeling it.

Growth Mindset – What is it?

Looming standardized testing is the perfect time to get mindful about our own mindset and how it can affect our attitudes about growth and improvement, both for ourselves and our students. Carol Dweck’s influential research defines a growth mindset as “the understanding that abilities and intelligence can be developed.” This definition is in contrast to the idea of a fixed mindset, which is the belief that abilities and intelligence are established early on in life and either present or not – essentially, that a person is either good at something or not.  Here is a helpful chart from an article by Carissa Romero to summarize the difference between the ideas of “fixed mindset” and “growth mindset:”


With this helpful chart comes a helpful caveat: everyone is on a journey with mindset! The chart can imply that a fixed mindset is “bad” while a growth mindset is “good,” and that an individual might have either a fixed or growth mindset about everything. Not true! Mindset is a spectrum within individual people and changes between various aspects of our lives. The goal is to learn to pay attention to our mindset, and help teach and model mindset awareness to students and young people. In this article, Carole Dweck revisits her original research, encouraging educators and parents to engage with this mindset journey.

Okay great! I’m on the journey. How Do I Do It?

There are many, many books and web-based resources on ways to foster growth mindset for ourselves and students (like this one! And this one! And this one too!), but one of the most concrete ways to start exploring our mindsets is becoming aware of the language we use. Dweck offers this graphic to help us start thinking about how our language can affect student mindset:


We educators care about our students and strive to provide positive feedback and encouragement. Growth mindset research suggests that using specific, student-centered feedback, instead of the traditional, general “good job!” can truly bolster student self-efficacy and learning. One way to start the practice giving this kind of feedback is to think of this equation:

Process Centered Feedback

For example, if a student has made a mistake on a math problem, a teacher might say, “I notice that you showed your work on this problem, even though the answer was not correct…that means we can go back and see where the problem got problematic! What’s another way we could solve this one?” Another example: A student gets a high grade on a writing assignment. Instead of “good job,” the teacher might say: “I notice that you worked really hard on your writing, and you got a high score!  How do you feel about your work?”

Building Self-Efficacy

The ideal result of using process-centered feedback is to foster growth mindset in our students, so that they are able to trust their own capacity to learn and grow.  This makes them less reliant on the external judgement of others, increasing their intrinsic motivation and emotional resilience in the face of setbacks. This is a process and a journey for all of us! What is one step you’re willing to try to bring more growth mindset into your life? Let us know in the comments, and use the #AISDGrowthMindset hashtag on social media in April to let us know how you’re growing!

As a final source of inspiration, we give you Janelle Monae and the Sesame Street gang singing about The Power of Yet!

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