Mindset

The impacts of mindset on students’ ability to achieve in school was the first aspect of education research to have a heavy impact on my educational practice. During my sophomore year at the University of Colorado Boulder, I worked as a learning assistant (LA)–one requirement of which was for each LA to take a course called Public Pedagogy. The course covered a range of educational theory and research, the intent of which was to guide us through the experience of teaching in our recitations. The topic that most affected me was the implementation of growth mindset.

Educational research has shown a causality between improved student performance and introducing a growth mindset (opposed to a fixed mindset) in schools (Dweck 2008). Applying this practice involves encouraging students that it is their effort, not their inherent abilities, that lead to success. This can take the form of praising struggle and failure as a necessary step in pushing oneself to achieve (as long as the failure did not originate in a lack of effort). Overall, the goal of this teaching practice is help students to see that they are capable to succeed if they work towards it, regardless of their previous achievements.

Being still in school myself, I am yet to have a class of my own to apply growth mindset practices on a large scale. One issue that I anticipate attempting to reconcile is the paradoxical nature of grades and growth mindsets. During a discussion, one on my professors brought up the trend he called “the A game.” In this game​          ​, students find themselves aiming to receive the very minimum grade percentage in a class that would earn them an A.  Even after studying education for several years, I still occasionally find myself playing “the A game.” In this way, I have embraced a fixed mindset. As Eduardo Briceno put it, “people with a fixed mindset worry the most about how they are judged while those with a growth mindset focus the most on learning” (Briceno 2012).

The struggle that I anticipate in my classroom is transitioning students from being focused on getting good grades to focusing on learning. In my experience, few of my peers in high school viewed the content of their courses as more important than the grades of their courses.  From what I have seen, this is because the students are rewarded and praised for grades, not how they got them of whether or not they deserve them.

One method of combating this mentality may lie in project based education. As an educator, if I can distract my students from their grades by inducing a genuine interest in a topic, then maybe I can combat “the A game,” and, in doing so, find a way to subtly produce a growth mindset. I aim to make my students proud of the content of their project opposed the grade they get. The challenge here is that students ​need  good grades. Our society is built around it. In my high school, like many others, grades were the primary tool given to me for getting into college. The solution I hope to someday apply is introducing projects that, in themselves, are something that could encourage a college to accept my students.

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