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The Best Way to Teach Mindset? Model It!

February 26, 2015 / by Erica Snyder

Often times as educators, we're asked to incorporate something into our instruction that we might not necessarily understand or know how to teach. We might get a short professional development session on the topic, a little drive-by PD action, and then there's an expectation to implement the content with little to no further support. Sound familiar? When put into these types of situations, teachers have a choice: the more challenging "figure out how to make it work" approach, or the more easily abandoned "this is an obstacle I don't want to overcome" method. Which path do you choose?

This scenario represents two types of mindsets found in schools, with adults and with students. More and more, teachers are being asked to not only support the growth mindset of their learners, but also explicitly teach the associated skills. Carol Dweck's video on growth mindset clearly illustrates why students need these skills, but where should teachers begin? The answer is to start with yourself.

When was the last time that, as a teaching professional, you pushed yourself outside of your comfort zone? When did you last engage the mindset skills needed to take ownership of your own learning? Isn't that really what we're asking students to do when engaging in deeper learning? Do you remember how hard it can be to learn something new, and have the persistence to continue that learning over a long period of time? Better yet, wouldn't it be great if there were a tool to help you remember?

New Tech Network schools use an Agency Rubric as a guide for what students should be able to do upon graduation as it relates to developing a growth mindset. As a teacher, you can use this rubric to familiarize yourself with the content of how to teach and assess a growth mindset. Even better, consider how you're modeling these skills for your students. And better still, consider how you're modeling these skills and mindsets with your colleagues to inspire each others' learning and growth.

  1. Try storytelling and thinking aloud about your own experience with fixed or growth mindset. A student, or colleague, might better grasp what we mean by fixed vs. growth mindset through your example.
  2. Be reflective about your own role in the ups and downs of the classroom community. How does your role positively or negatively impact that environment?
  3. Share your setbacks and failures. Be transparent with your learners about the growth you experienced, so they can see how challenging developing these skills can be.
  4. Actively learn something new for a sustained period of time and discuss the process with your learners. How can you parallel your experience with that of your learners and model the next-step process for them through your own decisions?
  5. Seek feedback from your colleagues. Invite them in to give you feedback, debrief the experience, and show students that adults need and want to get better at what they do in their jobs.
  6. Demonstrate the importance of building relationships. We all get derailed from time to time. Who is your support team for getting back on track? This doesn't need to be a secret from your students. Show them just how important "accountibilibuddies" are.

Mindset matters in the classroom. If you believe that students can grow, and you're able to model that you too are continuously growing, you can better relate to your learners when they struggle, and be their champion when they succeed. Show students that you're all in this together -- learning, reflecting, and deepening your collective understanding of how to overcome challenges in and out of the classroom.

Topics: Professional Learning, Class Culture, Growth Mindset

Erica Snyder

Written by Erica Snyder

Erica Snyder is the Engagement Coordinator for Teaching Channel. Prior to her work here, she worked as a Digital Learning Designer and School Development Coach for New Tech Network (NTN). She has taught ninth grade ELA and Social Studies in Chicago and Charlotte. Follow her on Twitter: @snyder_erica.

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