Unit 3: Growth Mindset Principles that Help


Growth Mindset Principles for Middle School

If learners do not feel efficacious, hopeful or competent, they may make the decision to opt out of learning. A growth mindset offers learners the drive to accept new and potentially risky challenges. The view you adopt for yourself affects the way you lead your life. If middle school students learn that their efforts are a greater indicator of their overall success; and their attitudes, talents, interests and even aptitudes are malleable; they will naturally strive for success. Educators must strive to develop that mindset when engaged in instruction or assessment -like activities that involve generating evidence or evaluating results. Assessment practices should build hope, efficacy and achievement for students.

Make Minds Great

Specific Principles

The specific growth mindset principles applicable to middle school students are:

take ownership over your attitude

value the process over the end result

view challenges as opportunities

Integrated Practices

Combining metacognition with a growth mindset holds considerable potential for middle schooling because it focuses important big ideas that promote wholeness and unity rather than separation and fragmentation.

However, even the most accomplished teachers are challenged because they are asked to learn new kinds of pedagogical content and work outside of the dominant disciplinary culture.

There are a number of interventions that educators can use, but Jonathan Cohen, author of Educating Minds and Hearts, advocates for an orientation period at the beginning of the school year.

Orientation: Part 1

Before the start of the school year, teachers should gather and reflect on why they became teachers, what they believe is their essential role, what factors they believe create a positive school climate, how they would like their students to describe them and what support they need from each other to avoid cynicism and burnout.

Orientation: Part 2

Meet Student Needs

This part is implemented during the first week of school but the activities used are refined and reinforced throughout the school year. During this period, teachers should refrain from introducing textbooks and academic content. This week will be spent creating a classroom environment in which students are motivated and excited about learning. This is not a waste of time for middle school students. Using the following strategies will address the needs of students first and will promote involvement in their education, capacity to deal with frustrations and mistakes, as well as self-discipline.

  1. Helping Students to Feel Welcome- use ice-breakers to learn names, address fairness before it becomes an issue, be ready to provide accommodations that help learners meet expectations
  2. Developing Responsibility- provide opportunities for students to take ownership by performing tasks for the class or for their classmates
  3. Teaching Decision Making and Problem Solving Skills- model attentive listening and involve students in developing their own solutions to academic and social problems
  4. Using Discipline to Create Self-Discipline and Control- avoid humiliation and intimidation by focusing on preventative measures and teaching students (perhaps through role play) alternative responses to common issues
  5. Providing Positive Feedback and Encouragement- communicate realistic appreciation and acknowledge both personal and academic accomplishments
  6. Teaching Students to Deal Effectively with Mistakes- help the classroom feel safer by openly addressing the fear of making mistakes; demonstrate positive reflections of completed work, and use grading practices that build confidence

Intervention can also take the form of learning from people who inspire us to study and let go of excuses. Consider Dr. Andre Pinesett, who's know as The Study Doc on YouTube. Follow this link to hear how motivating and exciting Dr. Pinesett is as he encourages students to transform their strategies.

https://youtu.be/xm4aQhlzNz4 Dr. Andre Pinesett: The Study Doc, Study Smart Strategies: You don't need to study more, you need to study better. 

Journal Tips for Reflection

Jot it Down

Throughout this course you have had the opportunity to reflect on combining cognitive learning with growth mindset for middle school students. We began our reflection by recording what we think we know, what we learned, and what we hope to take action on. The following tips will help you complete your journal for this course.

  1. Take a moment to jot down your experiences in attempting to implement your goal. Instead of recording fails- record challenges; challenges require problem solving. It's good for teachers to practice what they teach!
  2. Next, describe what you learned about yourself. Did you adopt cognitive learning and growth mindset for yourself or did you simply try to use the theory to have a better classroom experience. It's important to be honest because what teachers believe about the efficacies of their students matter.
  3. Lastly, leave a creative representation of your experience. The experience of trying to implement these strategies may have been frustrating; especially if you didn't see change. However, as you create a visual image of the investments you've made, you'll begin to see how you've transformed as a teacher. Always leave your reflective journal with a question; something as simple as....what's next?
Congratulations! You've completed this mini-course on Combining Cognitive Learning with Growth Mindset.

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