The team at PERTS—Stanford University’s Project for Education Research That Scales—has been researching growth mindset for quite some time, and their findings on student and educator learning capacity are fascinating.
Recently we sat down with PERTS's senior program manager Jacquie Beaubien to talk about growth mindset. Because we at TeachBoost are proponents of continuous professional learning, we were excited to talk through the research that supports taking a growth mindset approach to teacher development.
Here’s what we learned.
What is growth mindset?
“Growth mindset is the belief that abilities—specifically intelligence—are malleable,” says Beaubien. “It’s the belief that anyone can improve their intelligence.”
Why is growth mindset in educators so important?
“It’s a great benefit to anyone to develop a growth mindset,” says Beaubien. “Evidence shows it’s a positive perspective to have on someone’s abilities.”
We agree. In order to improve practice, students, teachers, and leadership teams need to believe that anyone can improve, including themselves and their peers.
Finally, says Beaubien, “it’s important for students to see that their teachers fully embrace the belief that everyone can learn.”
How can instructional leaders promote and support growth mindset in their teachers?
Beaubien offers 5 helpful tips for principals, coaches, and educator teams:
1. Deliver frequent, formative feedback.
“There’s a lack of consistent formative feedback in the teaching profession,” says Beaubien. “Teachers get trained and given the content, but they’re not given many opportunities to improve their teaching. Most models for evaluating teachers are like old model of evaluating students—summative. It can feel very threatening.”
Just like students need formative assessments and personalized learning plans, it is also critical that educators get frequent feedback on their performance, know where they need to focus their efforts, and understand the steps to take to improve their practice. “One thing I really love about TeachBoost,” says Beaubien, “is that it’s a platform for giving formative feedback, making mentor matches, and planning goals and next steps.”
2. Be deliberate about offering growth mindset praise that supports growth mindset.
Phrases like “you’re a natural” or “you’re really smart” are complimentary, however they suggest that a person’s abilities are innate, or inherent; fixed. Growth mindset praise is more nuanced. “You need to praise the process: the steps someone took to get to the desired end result. Effort is a part of that, but not the whole.”
3. Embrace the idea that learning occurs when one is stretched beyond their comfort zone.
In other words, make room for you and your teachers to make mistakes. “One thing educators work on is helping students get comfortable making mistakes,” says Beaubien, “but the same must be true for teachers. Teachers are facing challenges like adopting the Common Core, integrating technology tools— these introduce significant changes to most classrooms.”
Speaking from an edtech perspective, we must embrace the belief that all educators can leverage technology in powerful ways in the classroom. A tool like TeachBoost helps leaders consider everyone in the school as a learner, which means everyone has to be comfortable making mistakes.
4. Take advantage of the Growth Mindset for Teachers kit.
To help educators foster growth mindset in their students, PERTS created a free set of courses, lessons, and best practices for use in the classroom. The kit walks teachers through the fundamentals of a growth mindset, and has activities teachers can try out in their classroom.
5. Leverage the Growth Mindset for Educator Teams course.
In addition to the classroom-oriented mindset kit, the free Educator Teams course covers setting up PLCs and PD around growth mindset, offers suggestions on how to introduce this to the whole school, and includes stories from teacher teams who’ve done this work.
PERTS encourages teachers to conduct peer visits to observe others working through the kits, and they provide a framework and downloadable worksheets for delivering teacher feedback. We really like this for two reasons:
- Teacher evaluation forms aren’t always great fits for peer visits, so it’s great to have a new resource for intervisitations.
- Because mindset work is new and nuanced, it’s helpful that PERTS put together these guiding documents.
Beaubien suggests starting with small group of self-motivated teachers as well as a principal or school leader. Visit the Mindset Kit website to learn more and sign up for their fantastic newsletter.