Almost all of us can sympathize with the crushing sensation of getting a failing grade at one point or another.
Whether it’s on a spelling quiz in elementary school or an essay for a college class, the sight of an “F” at the top of your paper can be equally demoralizing.
What sets people apart, however, comes from how one responds to that “F”.
Do you get discouraged and resign yourself to the fact that “spelling just isn’t your thing?”
Or do you take it as a challenge to practice more and improve?
Time and time again, research has proven that students and individuals that choose the latter attitude will perform better in school and beyond. This is called having a “growth mindset”.
What is a growth mindset?
A growth mindset is one in which people believe that all skills and abilities can be developed through hard work.
A fixed mindset, on the other hand, assumes that people are born with or without given skills and abilities. Individuals with fixed mindsets believe that some people are good at math, and others are not. Some people are smart, and others are dumb.
The beauty of a growth mindset is that students who possess this outlook on ability often have a love of learning and a great deal of perseverance.
Students with a growth mindset are more likely to face a challenging academic task with optimism, knowing that doing hard work will help make their brain stronger.
So how can you foster a growth mindset in your classroom? Read on for some ideas on how to harness the power of “not yet” with your own students.
How to help students develop a growth mindset
Teach students how the brain works. Just like other muscles in your body, the more you exercise the brain in new and different ways, the stronger it will get. This isn’t just a theory, it’s science! Having your students read about how this process works in the brain will invest them in the process.
Praise Actions Not Traits
When promoting a growth mindset, rethink how you praise students in the classroom. “You’re so smart,” sends students the message that smart is a fixed condition that students either have or they don’t. Instead, praise students for their effort, resilience, or optimism in the face of a challenging task.
Instead of always celebrating top performers when it comes to an assignment or assessment, celebrate those students who’ve shown the most growth. This signals to kids that the process of learning is just as important as the outcome.
Use the Word “Yet”
One high school in Chicago gives students who did not achieve a passing mark in a course the grade “not yet”, instead of an “F”.
While unconventional, this mark signifies to students that the journey of their learning isn’t over. Instead of signaling that students had a chance to master something and they failed, “not yet” merely shows that they haven’t reached mastery but are on their way there.
This practice is one of many strategies used by the school to help promote a growth mindset in students.
Provide Opportunities for Revision
Build in systems in your classroom that permit students to improve upon the work they’ve already done. Maybe you have students pair up and peer edit creative essays before rewriting or allow students to do test corrections. You want to show students that nothing is ever perfect, and the process of improving is a great opportunity to learn.
Change Your Common Language
Rephrase the way you introduce tasks and assignments. An “exam” sounds intimidating and final. Instead, refer to assessments as “opportunities to show what you’ve learned so far” (“so far” implying that the learning isn’t done).
Developing a growth mindset is potentially one of the most powerful tools that teachers can use to help students become academically successful lifelong learners. There’s no doubt that students will face failures on the route to mastery, but a growth mindset will help them seize these failures as the learning opportunities they should be.