From knowing to growing

The terms “fixed mindset” and “growth mindset” get used a lot these days. Here’s what they really mean. A fixed mindset assumes that intelligence and talent are fixed traits. You’re born with a certain amount of each, and that’s that. A growth mindset assumes that intelligence and talent can be increased with effort and purposeful practice. All the research supports this research on development brain plasticity, motivation show that effort physically changes the makeup of the brain and improves performance over time.

So why, then, do traditional schools still operate with a fixed mindset? Why do we assume some kids are smart and others are not? Why do they give kids one chance to learn something, rather than letting them continue to practice and improve? Why do they focus on achievement and attainment more than growth and improvement? Shifting from traditional to mastery education means shifting from a fixed to a growth mindset. This is a very personal practice – each student, teacher, and leader can undergo the shift – and it is also a cultural and structural change – making the shift will mean thinking differently about things like instruction, grading, and assessment.

It will change the metrics you use to monitor achievement as well. Monitoring growth and achievement levels are both important. We want students to be making progress and we want to help students be on and stay on a track towards graduation.

Questions to Consider:

  • In what ways does your school or district currently model a fixed or growth mindset? How do these mindsets “show up” in instruction, grading, assessment, and other practices?
  • What connections might exist between your school’s or district’s culture and your outcomes? How do you know?
  • What culture do you need to move toward your vision and achieve your desired outcomes for students? What would this look like in practice?
  • What mindset changes will individuals need to make? What changes will need to be made in policy and practice?
  • Where can you start? Who will you engage?