David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.
What is a Growth Mindset?
A growth mindset is a way of thinking that emphasizes the idea that intelligence is not fixed; instead, it can be developed. Students with a growth mindset focus on trying to improve themselves instead of worrying about inbuilt traits. Research has shown that people with this kind of mindset have greater motivation and achieve greater success. They work harder, learn more, and show more enthusiasm for the process. There are many ways to apply a growth mindset in your classroom. Here are some specific activities that can help.
Perhaps the most common way to encourage a growth mindset is to have students set goals. This can start right at the beginning of the school year, with students setting goals for the first quarter. Have them figure out exactly what they want to achieve in terms of improving their grades from the previous year, but also in terms of specific ways of working or learning. They might try to study a certain amount of time every school night, or raise their hand a specific number of times per class, or see you to get help at least once a week. The more specific the goal, the better. But whatever the goals, it will encourage students to think of themselves in terms of ways they can grow.
Part of having a growth mindset is responding to situations in a positive way. In this activity, have groups of students create a poster to remind themselves what kinds of phrases they should use when facing various situations. On one side of the poster write 'fixed mindset', and on the other side write 'growth mindset'. On the fixed mindset side, you might have phrases like 'This is too difficult' or 'I just can't understand this'. On the growth mindset side, you might have phrases like 'I'll keep trying' or 'Where did I make my mistake?' or 'How can I fix my mistake?' Students can illustrate the poster however they wish. Have students vote on the best poster, and put that poster on the classroom wall as the official class growth mindset poster.
Intelligence Test Activity
Another way you can show students that intelligence really can be improved and learned is to show the weaknesses of an intelligence test. Have students complete a small intelligence test with a specific type question. Give students the scores. Then teach them strategies for answering those questions, and have them practice the skills necessary to answer that type of question. Then have students repeat the test. The vast majority of students in the class will do better the second time. You can even show your students how the class average changed. This drives home the idea that a growth mindset is a real thing and isn't just some nice idea that teachers claim to be true but really isn't.
Letter to the Past
Another way of encouraging a growth mindset is to have students write a letter to a younger version of themselves. Have them talk about topics they were learning in school that they found difficult, which they now find easy. Have them give the younger version of themselves tips and advice. This helps students realize that they can do things easily now that they found incredibly hard in the past. It shows them clearly that they really have grown over time.
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