Growth Mindset in the STEAM Classroom
Overview and Purpose
STEAM learning is inherently based on problem-solving, trial and error, and experimentation. It is this experimentation, along with a children’s natural curiosity that makes STEAM learning engaging and fun. However, as students work through problems and experiment to discover solutions, there will be many opportunities for them to fail. It is this failure that could lead to discouragement and frustration among many students, eventually dissuading them from taking part in the STEAM fields. As students experience failure and become frustrated they tend to just give up, because of feelings that they are just not good enough at a specific subject, or just not smart enough. It is this fixed mindset that the STEAM teacher must work to combat and shift towards one more focused upon growth. In order to do this, the STEAM teacher must recognize what a growth mindset is, along with the various strategies to foster it and the barriers that exist. An understanding of a growth mindset can assist the STEAM teacher in alleviating student frustration and help them overcome the hurdle to learning that a fixed mindset presents.
Instructional Problem: The S.T.E.A.M. classroom typically incorporates learning based upon open-ended exploration and experimentation during project-based learning activities. The open-ended nature of these activities, tied in with guided experimentation, could prove to be frustrating to many students who do not see themselves as capable enough to take on the challenges posed by this type of learning. Students may view themselves as incapable due to a belief that the subject matter taught in a S.T.E.A.M. classroom is something that only smart people are capable of doing, along with various social cues or other factors in the school community that can contribute to a low concept of student ability (Carsten Conner, Tsursaki, Teal Sullivan, Guthrie, & Pompea, 2019). All of which contributes to a fixed student mindset, as opposed to one that is focused upon growth.
A student's mindset is the perception that they hold about their abilities, their frame of reference (Smith, 2020). This psychological mindset plays a critical role in their level of academic achievement (Rattan, Savani, Chugh, & Dweck, 2015). A fixed mindset is one that believes ability is inherent and cannot be changed; in contrast to a growth mindset that believes ability can change through mentoring and the use of appropriate instructional strategies (Carston Conner et al., 2019). Through the use of appropriate instructional strategies meant to shift student thinking from a fixed mindset to one focused upon growth, racial, gender, and social achievement gaps can be closed, while improving student grades and motivation particularly among those students who are struggling (Rattan et al., 2015). Appropriate strategies are ones focused on quieting the inner negative voice, removing judgment, and increasing levels of engagement (Carsten Conner et al., 2019). A shift in mindset creates learners who seek to learn and improve, pursue challenges and value effort (Rattan et al., 2015) which is desirous to an efficient and productive learning community.
What will be learned: As learners work through this mini-course they will be exposed to the traits of a growth mindset and fixed, strategies geared towards fostering a growth mindset in students, ways to identify barriers to establishing a growth mindset in students, and classroom tasks to utilize to establish growth mindset.
Who is this course for: This course is designed for educators who wish to develop knowledge of mindsets and implement practices to establish a growth mindset in a classroom. Much of the discussion on various types of projects and tasks will be geared towards the STEAM classroom. However, the practices can be used in any type of classroom.
As a result of this course students will be able to:
- Correctly define growth mindset during discussion with colleagues.
- Describe the importance of fostering a growth mindset in their classrooms when discussing with colleagues.
- Identify the characteristics of both a growth mindset and fixed mindset when presented with a list that could pertain to each.
- Compare and contrast classroom environments in order to identify methods that could foster, or hinder, growth mindset when presented with case studies.
- Develop a list of strategies to utilize in order to foster a growth mindset in their classroom when presented with various instructional scenarios.
- Identify the barriers present in a classroom that could limit the ability of a student to develop a growth mindset.
This mini-course includes the following units. Click the title of a unit to go to its page.
- Learners will be introduced to the definition of a growth mindset.
- Learners will examine the traits of a growth mindset.
- Learners will examine the traits of a fixed mindset.
- Learners will compare the traits of growth and fixed mindset.
- Learners will be tasked with deciphering between the traits of a growth mindset and a fixed mindset.
- Learners will examine methods of embracing mistakes to foster a growth mindset in their classroom.
- Learners will examine strategies of utilizing praise in order to foster a growth mindset.
- Learners will examine feedback strategies useful in fostering a growth mindset.
- Learners will be tasked to discover strategies that promote effort over success.
- Learners will explore the types of classroom tasks that can build a growth mindset.
- Learners will explore sense-making and the way in which it can foster a growth mindset.
- Learners will be tasked to create tasks that can foster a growth mindset in their students.
- Learners will explore the various barriers to establishing a growth mindset in students.
- Learners will be tasked to discover barriers to establishing a growth mindset.
- Learners will reflect upon their practice as educators and make connections to our discussion of the growth mindset.