I am encouraged to see that growth mindset is on the minds of teachers a lot these days. That means more and more teachers and parents have become aware that students, especially students who struggle to learn, can actually change the way their brains function. They are not destined to struggle forever.
I’m sure you’ve heard the term brain plasticity plenty of times by now. Research in brain plasticity has proven time and time again (at long last) what therapeutic educators have known for a very long time. We all can, with practice, not only strengthen existing connections between neural networks. We can even grow brand new ones.
Creating new connections is the key reason that therapeutic educational interventions help struggling learners become capable, independent learners. Students develop new ways of thinking and learning that were previously weak or non-existent.
Another cool thing about creating new connections? Not only are struggling students able to strengthen and develop the processing skills required for learning. New neural pathways also help students develop a growth mindset.
So what is a growth mindset?
Dr. Carol Dweck coined the terms fixed mindset and growth mindset after noticing that some students give up much easier than others. Students with a fixed mindset believe they are powerless to change their intelligence or talents. They mistakenly believe these traits are fixed, so why bother trying, right?
Students with a growth mindset understand that with some effort they CAN become smarter; not only learn new things, but actually become more intelligent.
Parents and teachers who believe that a child’s brain can grow is one thing. When children believe it themselves, they start behaving differently. They achieve more than their fixed mindset peers.
So how do we help children believe that their effort really does pay off?
Cultivating a Growth Mindset
You’ll find a number of suggestions out there for developing a growth mindset. I’ll share a few that I found for you here.
1) Praise for effort over intelligence. Telling our kids how smart they are can apparently backfire. If children believe they are naturally smart, they may be less motivated to put in extra effort. Praising children for their effort, on the other hand, motivates children to seek out more challenging tasks. You can read the study here.
One word of caution, though. Be sure that you praise the effort of productive outcomes. If your child is trying but not learning from mistakes, make sure that you redirect the effort toward the original goal.
2) Encourage practical optimism. Pessimism blocks our thinking capacity, while optimism stimulates neurotransmitters that help make us more open to learning. We can role model optimistic attitudes as they pertain to learning. For example, similar to praising for effort, we can talk about how much more rewarding our accomplishments may be when they don’t actually come easily to us at first.
3) I especially love the idea of keeping a success file. Or a success jar. Or a success pocket/envelope. This is a collection of student successes, however you wish to gather them. Your child may have a daily practice of listing successes all about learning. For example, completed projects, new knowledge, improved skills, etc. Be sure to have your child review the list on a regular basis. As the success file grows, so may your child’s confidence and, of course, growth mindset.
Because I like idea #3 so much I decided to make it even easier for you to follow through with. I created some simple success tickets to print and cut and provide to your child. You may provide one every time you notice a learning success or provide some to your child at the end of each day. Whether you complete the success tickets yourself or let that be your child’s job is up to you.
Here’s an added bonus for you. As you hand out success tickets to your child you may also find yourself reinforcing empathic joy in yourself. Empathic joy is that delight you feel in the happiness of others. As your child celebrates success, you get to celebrate, too! Yay to you both!
I switched things up a bit this time. Instead of visiting The Free Printables Collection find your free, downloadable Growth Mindset Success Tickets here.