When students enter a classroom, they are going to be challenged. It’s the nature of learning that new ideas, concepts, and skills will be presented and goals of success and achievement will be set. Inevitably, there will be times when students struggle with the challenges set forth in their lessons. In order to master and excel in a subject area, mistakes need to be made. Too often these mistakes are taken as failures or signs they aren’t smart enough to succeed. Correcting this viewpoint is crucial for teachers to instill a positive drive in their students and keep them engaged no matter what the work calls for.
A growth mindset is one in which the belief system of the student is moved to a place where they believe working through their learning gaps, mistakes, and unsuccessful attempts is the way to find success. It suggests that no matter the size of the skill or task, hard work and practice will help them improve and reach their goals. It’s turning “I can’t” to “I can”. And it isn’t like turning on a light switch, it takes perseverance and the work needed to change the “I can’t” to “I can.” Most importantly, it’s teaching students that saying “I can’t” doesn’t serve them at all. They can succeed. It’s possible and it’s this belief system that will become their process.
The key is to eliminate the “I can’t” from students’ vocabulary. Start the school year by explaining the Growth Mindset philosophy and have students respond to it in their own words. This will start the dialogue. Now, as the year progresses, when students do find themselves frustrated, they can be reminded that saying “I can’t” simply isn’t an option. They can overcome the problem. Now they are at the stage where they need to identify the ways and paths to improve.
The Growth Mindset philosophy is one that encourages students to see opportunity in all of their work and progress. A wrong answer isn’t the end. It’s a new starting point for finding the right one. This positivity and commitment to the work will help them throughout their educational journey.