Describe how the teacher develops and promotes true growth mindset in his/her instruction, assessment, and/or procedures. What more could/should the teacher do in this regard? Provide specific examples and be sure to include a reference in your response.
I observed a 10th grade and a 12th grade English class at a local high school, taught by the exemplary Mrs. G.
Instruction: Daily Oral Language
In both grade levels I observed, Mrs. G. started the class with a Daily Oral Language exercise, a common practice in English classes. The students worked independently to make corrections to the sentence so it had proper grammar and usage. Then they made corrections as a class.
Mrs. G. used the DOL to promote a growth mindset by giving instruction that clearly communicated to the students that grammar and usage was something they were improving at and would continue to improve at. By this point, the students have been with Mrs. G. for about 6 months, doing DOL in each class with her. She pointed out what they had learned thus far about clauses and comma usage, and gave the students the chance to demonstrate what they had learned. She also said that there was still more they needed to learn about semi-colons and clauses, but that there would be enough time for them to learn it. Mrs. G. used phrases like, “Oh, we haven’t learned that yet,” and, “We’ll cover this in a couple of weeks, and then you’ll get it.” She expressed confidence in the students’ ability to learn even the more difficult aspects of grammar.
I could see the students demonstrating this growth mindset as well. They weren’t afraid to ask questions, and Mrs. G. was quick to answer their questions completely. From the students’ willingness to question, I inferred that they could identify when they didn’t know something and knew that if they asked they could learn. The students demonstrated both metacognition and a growth mindset during this instruction.
Instruction: Turning Failure Into Success
In Mrs. G.’s AP English class, I observed her combine an assessment and instruction in a way that promoted a growth mindset. An AP class is really all about a growth mindset, and the idea that with focused instruction and effort you can learn to think and read and write in new ways. Of course, the AP test is less about a growth mindset, because it’s a snapshot of your ability, but I think the AP class itself promotes a growth mindset.
In this class, the students had taken a practice test the previous week. Many students had missed a lot of the questions, as would be normal about halfway through the year. In this lesson, Mrs. G. taught the students about the types of questions that are most often on the AP English test—broad categories of question types. Then she had students work in pairs to identify the types of questions that had been on the practice test. The students analyzed the questions and made a graph of the types of questions they missed the most often. Then, in the next class period, she planned to discuss ways to help them answer the types of questions they had most often missed.
This lesson was also an exercise in metacognition, since students were learning what types of questions they were best and worst at answering. I believe the underlying premise of the lesson is that of a growth mindset, though. This lesson clearly communicates to students that it is OK to score poorly on the practice test, and that they are literally going to use their test failures to improve on the next test.
Marina Krakovsky wrote in the Stanford Alumni about students with a fixed mindset, pointing out that “for them, each task is a challenge to their self-image, and each setback becomes a personal threat.” Mrs. G.’s students demonstrated the opposite of this belief—they didn’t view their failure as a personal threat; instead, they used their failure to learn and viewed it as an opportunity for improvement.
When I observed this lesson, the students didn’t seem surprised by their failure, and seemed to embrace the chance to improve their score on the next practice test. Mrs. G. also clearly communicated her belief that yes, the AP test is hard, but that she believes they can succeed with time, practice, and effective feedback.
I observed Mrs. G. returning some book reports to her 10th grade class. Before class, Mrs. G. told me that there had been a lot of mistakes in the MLA formatting in the reports, something that was included in the assessment description and rubric, so she was using the report as an assessment of their understanding of a lesson on MLA formatting she’d given previously. The book report also had other purposes for the class and assessed other reading and summarizing skills.
In the class I observed, Mrs. G. talked to her students about the problems with the formatting. She reminded the students that this was something they had already learned, but acknowledged that since about half of the students hadn’t done the MLA formatting, she wanted them to really learn it. She re-taught the information on MLA formatting, and then allowed the students who had failed that part of the report to re-do it and turn it in the next day.
Mrs. G. was acting on the belief that her students could learn to do the MLA formatting properly if they were taught correctly and put in the attention and effort needed to do it right. She did not explicitly tell her students, “We’re going to develop a culture of a growth mindset by re-doing this assignment;” instead, she demonstrated her belief in a growth mindset by re-teaching and allowing the students to re-do the assignment.
In Mrs. G.’s classroom, you can actually feel the learning. It’s pretty cool. I observed Mrs. G. engage in these and other teaching and assessment strategies to help develop a growth mindset in her students. She never expressed the belief that her students “just aren’t good” at English, or that some kids “will never be able to do this.” Instead, she said things like, “They haven’t learned this skill in the past, but they need to, so we’re going to practice,” and “We haven’t learned that yet, but we will.” She expressed confidence that her students can learn and can get better, she provided opportunities for her students to turn failure into success without threatening their identity. She helps her students develop a growth mindset that will serve them well in their lives.