A Parent's Guide to Growth Mindset

Let’s face it – most of us have great respect for teachers, and we know they are really, really smart. Sometimes we know how smart they are by the strange words and phrases they use. Right?

Well, they ARE smart. No argument there.  But it shouldn’t be because they use words and phrases that most of us don’t know. And yet the world of education certainly has its own language, and if you’ll read along, I’m going to try to explain one of the key phrases you’re likely to be hearing: GROWTH MINDSET.

When you visit your child’s classroom, you’re likely to see a bulletin board or poster referencing Growth Mindset. And your children might even be talking about it when they tell you about their day. That’s because it’s a really big deal – a philosophical shift in how we teach, and in how we measure progress.

Basically, the way most of us experienced school, and the way many schools today still operate, is considered a fixed mindset. The belief was/is that some children are born with great capacity to learn; others are not. If you were one who believed you weren’t very smart, you probably dreaded school. Chances are you considered school a place where you were constantly being evaluated and that it was more important to get a good grade than to actually learn something. And making mistakes? Another sign that you simply weren’t as smart as your classmates.

And yet, doesn’t some of our most powerful learning come from those times we made mistakes? Babies don’t give up the first time they try to sit up, when they almost always tumble over. They keep trying when they take those first wobbly steps and fall. Can you imagine a world where most of us crawled while only a very few walked?

And what about some of our historic innovators? How many tries did it take before Thomas Edison’s light bulb held light? Was penicillin perfected on the first try? And those astronauts on Apollo 13 – we hailed them as heroes for their problem-solving skills, even though they needed several attempts to get it right.

Growth mindset is the belief that intelligence can be nurtured and developed. School is considered a place where challenges are opportunities, and growth is the measure. The focus is on improvement, and mistakes are part of the process of improving.

There will be some subtle (and not-so-subtle) changes to how we measure progress in the classroom. And we’ll be using some words more than ever. For example, “yet.” As in, “You haven’t mastered that YET.” Because now more than ever, we want to encourage students to keep stretching. Much like we adults do when we learn new software for work, or adapt to a new process. In our jobs, it’s rarely an option to just give up, or accept that we can’t do something. So why should we operate schools on that premise?

Interested in learning more about Growth Mindset? Check out this website with free resources for parents and teachers.  https://www.mindsetkit.org/