Growing a Growth Mindset through
Creating a Significant Learning Environment
How can we perpetuate a growth mindset when everything in today's teaching environment is dictating a fixed mindset. Standardized testing, core curriculum, Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), and common unit assessments are dictated to teachers on what needs to be taught; the year at a glance calendar tells them when to start and when to stop each unit. If our teaching environment is rooted into a fixed mindset, is there any hope? If we need to change our students into having a growth mindset, then we need to change the environment in which we have students learn, we need to create a significant learning environment (CSLE).
Carol Dweck (2006), in Mindset: The New Philosophy of Success, gives us the ingredients to create a growth mindset, that this mindset is "based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts, your strategies and help from others." I initially focus on the word, "your". My first though was that it was the foundation on what I needed to do to give my students a growth mindset. As I read more, it began to be a bit confusing until it dawned on me that it was she was not talking about what I needed to do for them, it is what they need to do for themselves. Teaching them her philosophy was what we needed to do. Yet, it is not enough to change our current teaching environment. Administration and fellow peers listened to my learning philosophy, my disruptive innovation proposal and my desire to implement electronic portfolios for our students with a smile and a let's set up a meeting to discuss it further. To put it simply, I hit a stone wall.
In Harapuik & Thibodeaux's (2019) video, LMD EP20 Growing a Growth Mindset, they discussed it takes to grow a growth mindset. They discussed the various thing that we as students, did to create that growth mindset. Put the posters up, tell them to belief in themselves, failure is simply an opportunity for growth, etc. and it was not working. As they discussed their views and shared pivotal points in their lives and of their families lives, I stopped viewing and just listened. As they spoke, I focused on a note I have tacked to the cork board above my desk at home. It is a handwritten note with Create a Significant Learning ENVIRONMENT. The light bulb came on as the discussion was not just about growth mindset, but about changing the environment. Yes, we still have to plant the seed of embracing a growth mindset but we also have to change the environment. So this is my plan to change my classroom environment, slowly over time, as Rome was not built in one day, neither will the growth mindset environment be created in one day. We have to give students the choice and the ownership as well as the voice to give authenticity to their learning (COVA) (
Growth Mindset Environment Plan
Using the 4 steps to teach students on changing from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset (Dweck, n.d.), I first need to model it myself for them. Explaining that we all have a fixed mindset and that we have to acknowledge it as part of who we are. That being said, we need to recognize and believe that we have a choice in out perspective and actions. That our brain is still growing and can still learn. Next, we need to tell our fixed mindset that we can change and we do have a choice, it is just not going to be easy. Finally, we need to act on it and take some action. Simple as it sounds, it is not. It will take conscious effort to grow that mindset from fixed to growth, having the grit to not give up.
Carol Dweck (2014) introduced me to the power of yet. The power in that one work, when used in the correct context is awesome. I began using it after encountering it from her video, The Power of Yet. Whenever I heard my students say, "I can't learn this" and began saying, yet, to them. It took several explanations of what I meant and most remain skeptical of the idea. I have kept doing it this semester and have only had one student start to say yet. I remember to do this because I keep a cheat sheet on my small podium I have on my teaching table. It has a few phases such as, "do not say wrong to an incorrect answer", do not give up on them" do not give up on yourself" and lastly, "YET" in big letters.
My idea of not telling a student that they are wrong when they answer incorrectly is paying off. I respond with, "that would be correct if we were talking about...", or "almost there, there's a little more to that", or your on the right track, can anyone help him/her out...". Even though I am conveying the same meaning, by putting a different spin, my students have been more willing to participate in the discussions. It has helped to curtain students copying from each other during quizzes and exams. I've heard statements such as, "bro, its in the notes" or "raise your hand and ask for help, bro". There will be some who will always cheat but for the most part, creating a positive environment in the classroom has curtailed much of it.
One major thing I changes this semester was I stopped giving students notes. While this meant that I had to write everything for them to copy, it gave me time to focus on the important things of the lesson and making them responsible for their notes. Most took my note taking philosophy to heart, "If I write it on the board, you need to copy it." They had the choice of what to copy and how. When they asked questions, I saw many making annotations on what I said in response besides their notes. They kept an eye on each other and reminded their peers to take notes. The major impact was my telling them that if they wrote it down, they could using it on quizzes and grades. The look of astonishment and smiles was amazing. Comments like, "bro, I am so going to kill this test" from students who were struggling the semester before, Their confidence was evident and at the end of the nine week grading period, the lowest grade was an 81.3. I was amazed at how such a small thing as letting them use their notes made a difference. I have even had students ask if they can copy notes from another student because they missed the class or were called to the office during class. We have a saying in Spanish which is hard to translate into English because the literal meaning of the word does not convey its true meaning, "con ganas!" Its like trying to explain "grit" to a non-English speaker. To us, it means from the heart, a gut feeling, not giving up, doing your best. I guess they simply mean the same and it is not something like common sense, its something we need to learn and then focus on, and that is my job to teach them that.
Teachers have a saying whenever administration presents a new plane to improve the district overall, its "the flavor of the year". These innovation stick around heartily for a year or slow and then die a slow death. Training stops, key words stop being used and shortly its business as usual. Even administration lets it die slowly before they begin looking for the next innovation. The plan is to start with a small group of teachers that will buy into my presentation of growth mindset, disruptive innovation and of implementing teacher and student ePortfolios in August during a two day professional development where teachers select their own breakout sessions. While I hit the brick wall earlier in the year, I found a loose brick and made my way into being a presenter.
On my page, Digital Leading and Learning, I created a slide show which links my learning philosophy, my growth mindset, CSLE and the 3-column table, UbD, and this page. The most significant item in this class is that I need to go back and change my innovation plan, my growth mindset and several others for the very first course to now. I realize that this will is my wake-up call that these documents will constantly change as I develop a better understanding of the various topics. It will be a never ending cycle but as time goes by, will require smaller revisions than my first revision, still in progress.
Dweck, C. S. (n.d.). How can you change from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. Retrieved from http://mindsetonline.com/changeyourmindset/firststeps/index.html
Dweck, C. S. (2014). The power of yet. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=6&v=J-swZaKN2Ic.
Dweck, C. S. (2016). Mindset: the new psychology of success. New York: Ballentine Books.
Thibodeaux, T., Harapnuik, D. (2018). Choice, ownership and voice through authentic learning: COVA + CSLE. Retrieved from http://www.harapnuik.org/?page_id=7291.