Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by psychologist Carol Dweck is an easy read. The chapters are well organized so you can read only what’s relevant – although you may get sucked into reading the whole thing!
A growth mindset describes an individual’s belief that he or she can learn and change intelligence through practice and hard work. Alternatively, individuals with a fixed mindset believe in limits to personal abilities – that practice and hard work have little impact on ability.
When it comes to math in particular, students need help fostering their growth mindset so that they overcome challenges in their learning. Interestingly, students often have a fixed mindset about math, even when they may approach other subjects with a growth mindset!
The language used to communicate student progress has a big impact on students’ beliefs about their own abilities. Below are 3 strategies to encourage a growth mindset in your classroom along with examples of how to say it.
1) Be honest with students about their progress
- You got a 58% on the equations quiz and I’d like to review questions 11 and 13 with you. We are reviewing this together so you know what you need to do – ready to get to work?
- Let’s talk through a problem similar to this one so you know how to approach it next time.
2) Give growth mindset feedback
- I see you are working at understanding this, but let’s work together to figure out what you don’t understand.
- I see all the different kinds of strategies you tried to figure the problem out. You thought of a lot of different ways to solve it.
- It may take you more time to be comfortable with this material, but if you keep at it, you will understand it.
- I know this may be difficult for you now, but I can see that you are working hard to learn new, challenging things.
- I like the picture you drew to help solve this problem. Tell me more about it.
3) Ask summary questions that prompt a growth mindset:
- What did you learn today?
- What mistake did you make that taught you something?
- What did you try hard at today?