Promoting a school culture that centers on a growth mindset and positivity leads to happy and effective learning

6 ways to foster a growth mindset in your school community

Promoting a school culture that centers on a growth mindset and positivity leads to happy and effective learning

The COVID-19 pandemic unfolded last year, slowly necessitating the need to bring about unprecedented social isolation and safety measures, in all aspects of daily life. One area that saw the maximum change in mindset was the education sector.

Overnight, all schools and universities closed the school buildings for their learners.

The educators began stretching their existing abilities, thriving on challenges and seeing failures as a heartening springboard for growth and getting back to find solutions. Slowly realizing that this was the ‘new normal’ to stay, the most imperative aspect for all schools was to build socio-emotional wellbeing and a growth mindset.

As a school, the topmost priority for us became to encourage teachers to continue to strive towards a growth mindset and ensure the same for students and thus work towards their well-being. The curriculum and the methodology needed a change, and we were sure to bring about that positive change.

For teachers, we as the leadership team began by giving them the agency to select and choose a platform for virtual lessons. The school community created an environment for passion of learning rather than a hunger for approval. The ideas and suggestions of all teachers were appreciated and weighed. Various surveys and discussion forums were established for teachers to express and suggest. An open platform was established wherein teachers could share their triumphs and also failures. Individuals connected and collaborative meetings were held every day within the school hours. Contact time for students was reduced keeping the screen exposure in mind. This had our teachers learning and exploring new apps for ensuring effective learning for students.

A collaborative document was created for teachers to contribute their learning and experience to help other teachers select an app for their usage. This also encouraged teachers to reflect on the apps and add their reviews, good or bad both. In the times, when education sector was booming with the race to use the maximum number of new innovative apps for teaching and learning, we emphasized on the effectiveness of the app and avoid an app overload for the sake of approvals.

The teachers thus began cultivating a growth mindset of believing that creativity and intelligence can be developed rather than being inherited traits, as said by Dweck. The zeal to design creative learning experiences saw a rise and had the students motivated during the virtual lessons. No day was same and boring.

This was easily then translated to the students. The teachers now focus on some of the essential aspects of growth mindset while planning their learning experiences.

1. Avoid praising intelligence and sheer effort: Growth mindset begins with acknowledging the importance of planning and being a risk taker to try new approaches. Praising just intelligence and effort reinforces it to be a fixed trait. The teachers ensure that the planning, the process and the thinking is appreciated over and above just the final product or the memorized knowledge. Feedback given was, ‘It’s ok if you haven’t got this right, let’s focus on the next steps,’ ‘Great! Your well-planned steps have shown good results. Continue the planning process for other tasks as well.’

2. Diverse and differentiated teaching strategies: Various instructional strategies and learning experiences help build the skills. Our Form 2 homeroom tutor used various strategies to build the growth mindset, especially for the higher achievers. She encouraged them for peer tutoring in Zoom breakout rooms and also the role reversal techniques. This worked really well as they were now in the shoes of a teacher and developed the skill of appreciation and reflective constructive feedback.

3. Gamification: The students were introduced to various game sites for deeper learning. Gamification helped students focus on the progress and goal and not the mistakes. They reflected on what didn’t go right and thought of alternate ways to achieve the goal, thus developing a growth mindset.

4. Extending questions and thoughts: Encouraging students to voice their questions and thoughts sets a path for growth mindset. This ensures they plan according to their own choice to inquire into answers and share. Students began finding answers to their peers’ questions and further adding more questions to deepen the inquiry.

5. Say ‘YET’: Encouraging students to not give up and accept the current learning. This helps them to continue the inquiry further and deepen learning. It is also a strategy to encourage them to never give up!

6. Creating success folders/reflections: Encouraging students to reflect and start making a note of their successes, however small they, helps them develop a growth mindset. The students celebrated their successes and tracked paths to solve their other struggles.

This is a journey that has just begun. As a school leader, I am determined to cultivate a culture focused on a growth mindset. Continuing to follow simple steps of encouraging respect and mutual observations and modelling will ensure a culture of learning among teachers. I also plan to strive for transparency in everyone’s work with no fear of trials and errors. It won’t be smooth sailing the whole way. But I am willing to talk through obstacles, such as teachers who are resistant to the changes or who feel the process isn’t working.

A culture of patience, listening to perspectives, and finding ways to incorporate strengths and experiences will support my team goals.

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