Growth mindset is a popular concept with a simple premise: intellect and learning can improve through hard work. It’s backed by scholars and has fully entered the educational spotlight. As a result, the benefits of growth mindset in the classroom have become evident to students.
Unfortunately, however, it’s not as widespread as it should be. In an EdSurge survey of more than 2,400 teachers and 36,000 students, 61% of students said they believed their intelligence can change in school, compared to 50% of teachers.
The very leaders responsible for instructing and motivating students should be the biggest proponents of the growth mindset. It’s a must for building student confidence in their abilities, intelligence, learning and, ultimately, their success.
Exploring the Importance of Growth Mindset in the Classroom
Since psychologist Carol Dweck introduced the growth mindset in the late 1990s, a growing body of research has supported the view that intelligence is malleable.
An interesting starting point is how the brain someone is born with can physically change, even well into adulthood. Researchers in Hippocampus saw significant growth in the size of the hippocampus (area of the brain responsible for spatial information) after training to become London taxi drivers. That type of study demonstrates how brain plasticity and the growth mindset go hand-in-hand. If people can perform activities and form new connections between brain cells, thereby influencing their intelligence, then working hard to achieve that goal is more than reasonable. A sizeable body of research agrees.
Brain plasticity and growth mindset go hand-in-hand. If people can perform activities and form new connections between brain cells, thereby influencing their intelligence, then working hard to achieve that goal is more than reasonable. A sizeable body of research agrees.
Studies in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology and Child Development found that college and seventh-grade students, respectively, who viewed intelligence as malleable instead of fixed performed better academically. Having a growth mindset helped in building student confidence, as college students with those beliefs expressed greater enjoyment of the academic process and greater academic engagement than control groups.
Among many other studies that support the growth mindset in educational settings, one from Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America reliably predicted achievement for students who held a growth mindset across a national sample. It was the first study of its kind, bringing together virtually all schools and socioeconomic strata in Chile. Students from lower-income families were less likely to hold a growth mindset, but those that held such a mindset were noticeably protected against the harmful impact of poverty on achievement.
Implementing the Growth Mindset
Before introducing students to the growth mindset and making it an integral part of the classroom, teachers need to adopt it themselves.
According to the British Journal of Educational Psychology, multiple sources say that for interventions seeking to develop growth mindset thinking, they are most successful when delivered by a teacher who has that mindset. It’s critical for different strategies and techniques to be successful, and that’s why implementing the growth mindset should be directed toward teachers as well as students.
But in terms of how the growth mindset can become part of a classroom, authors studied primary school staff and students who undertook that approach. The results uncovered four primary themes important to a classroom culture supporting growth mindset learning and teaching.
- Embarking on the Process. Research, collaboration, and believing in the approach were important to the initial planning and implementation stages. Participants spoke to the value of understanding the research behind the growth mindset and connecting with staff members on how to incorporate it into their classrooms.
- Classroom Culture and Training. Several teacher-initiated factors were directly related to harnessing a growth mindset in the classroom environment. Six secondary themes were identified: ability groups; teachers’ language; promoting mistake making; knowledge of brain plasticity; teachers’ mindset; and supply and peripatetic staff.
- Outside the Classroom. Having parents understand the new approach was a major part of the approach’s success. Peers can have a powerful effect too; some social interactions on the playground highlighted how the growth mindset wasn’t accepted fully.
- Pupil Approach to Learning. This category student-led approaches to learning like responses to mistake-making, embracing and avoiding challenge, fixed and growth mindsets toward learning, and finally, metacognition.
For an environment to successfully adopt the growth mindset, those themes and subtopics demand attention and effort.
Tips for Building Student Confidence Effectively
There’s no question that implementing a growth mindset in the classroom is far from simple. To introduce students to the growth mindset and help them sustain it long-term, several factors come into play.
One-off interventions might encourage growth mindset thinking, as the British Journal of Educational Psychology noted, but improvements are short-lived. An all-encompassing approach is essential to help students recognize that their intelligence and success are not fixed. Building student confidence and success with the growth mindset is possible with a well-researched plan.
There are certainly specifics that can help along the way. For instance, promoting mistake-making in the classroom and encouraging children to take on new challenges are must-haves for a growth mindset. Discussing metacognition by asking students what strategies help them learn best can also be key. As you get more comfortable teaching and communicating with the growth mindset, you’ll be able to use those tips and strategies effectively.
All of those finer points come, however, after doing the research and taking a broad look at what you’ll do to lead the classroom with a growth mindset. And with an online bachelor’s in elementary education, you can approach topics like the growth mindset within courses like psychology, pedagogy and teaching specific subjects. You’ll graduate with dual certification in Elementary Education K-6 and Early Childhood Education P-3.
If you already have your bachelor’s degree, you can consider an online master’s in elementary education or an online M.A. in Teaching. Regardless of your program, you’ll learn from one of the leading trainers of educators in the state at the University of West Alabama. Achieve your goals in a flexible online environment from one of Alabama’s oldest and most prestigious universities.