Growth mindset is a topic that I have attended professional development sessions on and researched when I am wearing my teacher hat. But I realized, if I was a parent would I know how to engage in a growth mindset for my kids at home? Honestly, probably not. But I think it’s so important to share so here goes…
Growth Mindset versus Fixed Mindset
Growth mindset is a mindset where one believes that with work, effort and persistence your skills or knowledge will be able to improve over time. A fixed mindset is when one believes their skills are not going to improve – you either have an innate ability or not.
One person can have different mindsets in different situations. You can also grow and develop a growth mindset in an area where you previously had a fixed mindset. But it does take some understanding about what to think, say, and do to change your approach and views.
Praise the Right Things
When using the growth mindset we want to look at the effort and strategies used to solve a challenging situation. We are not looking at a child’s success in solving but how they got to their end. By praising the effort and strategy used in approaching the challenge students learn to build perseverance or grit. The students who learn to preserve through grit will keep at a challenge. They won’t back down from trying even if they know it’s a challenge and that is what we want to build in our students.
The Power of Yet
Our wording can be very powerful for kids. If we make a simple shift from praising the success of intelligence to praising work ethic and grit we can change their mindset. This is a simplified description of the process but give it a try. By building their confidence in the process and their effort we are showing them that they can grow and change. This makes them more persistent when tasks change and get harder. We can build kids who are resilient. We can build grit.
A simple way to build this confidence or mindset in a child is to use the word yet or not yet. When kids are working hard on a task and they aren’t reaching the solution or goal we can encourage their work ethic and perseverance by saying, “You just have not solved it yet.” By adding this one powerful word kids have greater confidence and it’s a way to begin changing their mindsets.
Kids pick up on this shift quickly, too. A personal growth mindset example is when I was teaching my daughter to ride her bike. She doesn’t like to take risks so she was torn between wanting to learn to ride and falling. I made sure to always praise her focus on the skills I was mentioning as well as her persistence to get back up when it didn’t work.
Eventually she said, “It’s okay, I didn’t get it yet. I’ll try again tomorrow.” I very calmly said that was a great idea. But inside I was jumping up and down in a Disney level parade of celebration because she wasn’t giving up! I didn’t need her to learn to ride her bike that day or in any certain time frame but I did want her to learn persistence. And she did! That was a win for me!
In my classroom I use this often with my students. I tell them when a task is going to be challenging up front and remind them to get ready because they are going to need some grit. Sometimes I get an eye roll at this point because when I say grit in my class it’s always followed by a fist bump to my chest. I think my students have a love/hate relationship with it but they know they aren’t allowed to give up!
The Importance of Growth Mindset
So this all sounds great, but why is a growth mindset so important? When students have a growth mindset they grow their confidence to take on challenges. They even learn from them!
It’s when their inner voice switches from “I can’t” to “I can, just not yet” that shows the work was worth it. Kids who take on the challenges and learn from them are able to increase their abilities and achievements. And in the end, who wouldn’t want their kid to work hard because they believe they can. Even if it’s one day not today they succeed!
Tiffany Verhoosel is currently a Computer Science teacher in the Baltimore City School District. Coming from a background of business she joined the Baltimore City Teaching Residency over ten years ago to make the career change into education and has never looked back. Her degree from Johns Hopkins, a Master of Science in Digital Age Learning and Educational Technology, helped propel her from Special Educator to her current teaching position where she teaches Kindergarten to eighth grade students how to code.