What’s a Growth Mindset?

“If you started at a school where the teachers were not familiar with the concept of a ‘growth mindset’ how would you introduce the concept?” Someone posed this question to group of educators I’m part of.

Growth mindset has been a hot topic in education recently. The concept is simple but profound. People with a growth mindset believe that basic abilities, talents, and even intelligence are things that can be grown and developed over time with determination and hard work. This concept is important for teachers, as the fundamental belief that our students can grow in their abilities and intelligence will impact how we teach. Whether or not we believe a student is actually able to succeed will be demonstrated in the way we interact with that student.

One of the things that came to light in the conversation with these fellow teachers is that sometimes it’s not only the students that need to believe that they can learn and grow with hard work — teachers can fall into the “fixed mindset” mentality as well. You might hear a teacher say something like, “Technology scares me,” or “I’m happy with the way I’ve done things for the last several years,” or even the blatant, “I’ve got no desire to change.”

This is one reason that introducing the concept of a growth mindset is so critical. As educators, we won’t get better unless we push ourselves beyond what we’ve always done. And we won’t push ourselves if we don’t believe that we can get better.

Heidi Williams, the principal in the group, shared this quote from a recent conference she attended: “Iteration & Failure are Inherently Connected.” I love this and it oozes with growth mindset. Failing is an important step toward innovation and improvement. If we want to improve our craft as educators, improve the ways that we engage and support students, and ultimately improve student learning, we’ve got to be willing to risk failure, believing that through failure, we can grow.

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