Growth Mindset, and May Celebration!

In Social and Emotional Learning, we talk a lot about growth mindset–the idea that our brains remain plastic our entire lives, and with practice and work, we can learn new skills and get smarter no matter how old we are. This concept is called “neuroplasticity,” and knowing about it can help both adults and students in education environments feel empowered to work through challenges in the classroom and beyond!

It’s worth noting that this school year in particular, the idea of growth mindset has gained a new meaning as we have navigated work and school in very different, new, and challenging ways. Carol Dweck, an original researcher of the growth mindset concept, was quoted in this EdWeek article talking specifically about how we have had to do some new framing of growth mindset in classroom environments during this past year. She discusses the important role of growth mindset for both educators and learners as a key aspect of disrupting racial biases, tackling injustice, and managing new learning environments:

“It’s not that you give kids a growth mindset and then turn them loose,” said Dweck. “We have to create cultures that support them in using the growth mindset for growth of competence.”

Additional research of college students in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, fields found that Black, Latino, and Native American students earned significantly higher grades when their professors had a growth mindset regarding students’ abilities. Professors with fixed mindsets about their students’ potential saw larger gaps in grades between their white and Asian students and those who are Black, Latino, and Native American.

“It’s especially important not to use false growth mindset practices that put the onus on the student,” said Dweck.

Saying things like “just try hard,” or “you can do anything,” ignores the realities of the world, she said.

Growing growth mindsets

Teachers and parents can help young people build their growth mindset by modeling positive self-talk, giving process-based, student-centered feedback, and talking about the way our brains continue to grow and change as we work on new concepts and challenges throughout our lives. We can tell stories about how we worked through something that was hard for us at first, or how we learned from our mistakes. We can even practice and grow our ability to have a growth mindset! Check out these statements and these strategies to practice growth mindset language and self-talk!

Growth mindset as a system

In our very own district, we have made growth mindset a huge part of growing systemic SEL capacity through our Seed Model Campuses! These campuses have worked hard toward an actionable, equity-centered SEL goal throughout this uniquely challenging year, and we are so excited to share their growth and progress! Each of these 82 awesome, dedicated schools will share their Seed Model journeys at our virtual SEL Symposium on June 17, 2021, focusing on the theme “Stories Have Power: Connect. Transform.”

More information coming soon regarding your invitation to the 2021 SEL Symposium. We’d love to have you join us and flex your own growth mindset muscle.

Image from Seed Model Share Fair, part of the 2019 Symposium

Finally, May is always Teacher Appreciation Month, and it’s never been more relevant or important than this May to honor the incredible resilience, strength, capacity, brilliance and energy that Austin ISD teachers have poured into their learners and learning environments. Virtual and in-person, in the face of historic uncertainty and epic challenges, teachers have made things happen in ways that we could have never imagined pre-2020. All you amazing professional educators, please take three minutes to breathe and be present and listen to the words of brilliant thought leader and social justice organizer Elandria Williams in the video below. We are so thankful for you!

How will you be growing your growth mindset and celebrating yourself this May? Leave us a comment, or tag us on social media @austinisdsel! And see you at our SEL Symposium 2021: Stories Have Power: Connect. Transform.

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