School Beat: Having a growth mindset

By: Al Reickard

Assistant Principal

North Rockford Middle School

Approaching something with a growth mindset is not always easy.  It is human nature to look at a presented challenge, or a new learning task, and internally decipher if it is something which will be easy or difficult to accomplish.  At NRMS, we began the work around Growth Mindset last year when we had every student set a goal for their NWEA testing.  The results were staggering and we saw our students achieve growth rates that were among the highest in the entire country.  Both of the Rockford Middle School staffs are currently studying the topic of the Growth Mindset and how we can help our students tackle their learning through this mindset.

To better understand what having a “Growth Mindset” is all about, one must first understand the basic premise of two differing mindsets that Psychologist Carol Dweck wrote about in 2006.  She sets forth in her work titled Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, that there are two competing mindsets that people have.  Depending on which mindset someone utilizes in any given situation will have an impact on how successful they will be in that given situation.  The two mindsets that Dweck identified are Fixed Mindset and Growth Mindset.

Someone that operates with a Fixed Mindset believes that people are “born with a fixed amount of intelligence and ability.” (Dweck, 2006) Conversely, those that operate from the Growth Mindset believe that “with practice, perseverance, and effort, people have limitless potential to learn and grow.” (Dweck, 2006) The reality is that we all typically live in both mindsets and that is ok.  The challenge comes when we hit roadblocks, or a difficult task, to try to tackle it from a growth mindset.

We encounter countless examples in our daily lives where these two mindsets compete within our heads.  We might say to ourselves, “I can’t do that,” “I am terrible at Math,” or “I am not good at reading.” This is all a fixed mindset.  I know that you have either said these yourself, or you have heard your own students say one or all of them at times.  To turn that mindset around, practice the power of YET.  “I can’t do this YET.”  The old adage of practice makes perfect is better suited now to say practice will make me better.

When your student hits a roadblock, or something is really challenging and they are quick to throw up their hands and give up, reward their perseverance and help reframe their mindset from a fixed one to one of growth.  Coach them along with statements like, “I know this is difficult now, but if you work at it you will make progress.”  If we all promote the idea that through hard work, perseverance, and practice we may grow our skill sets and achieve more success, then we are all doing our jobs as adults in the lives of our students to help them with their Growth Mindsets.