Have you ever felt like praising a student whose grade was just a little above the average? Well, that happened to me and that was exactly what I did. I wrote how glad I was to see that his efforts, better behavior and involvement paid off and that he had to keep on doing all the exercises and participating in class. Actually, what I was trying to do was to build in him a more “constructive mental model”. Well, let me share with you a very interesting article I read as part of an online course I took called “Teaching Character to Create Positive Classrooms”.
According to this article, each person holds his/her own belief about intelligence. Some believe they have a fixed mindset, in which intelligence is a fixed entity, it doesn`t change. These beholders are performance oriented, that is, in response to failure they are more likely to give up as they see failure as an evidence of low competence and effort as a sign of low ability (not as a need to change strategy). These students don`t believe in their ability to learn, when they don’t reach a goal they feel like losers, are humiliated and, eventually, they give up. They worry more about proving they are good than improving their learning skills.
However, others believe in the Incremental Theory. This theory says that intelligence can be expanded and developed. These theorists, who believe in a growth mindset, are more focused on increasing their ability, they see effort as a way to nurture and develop intelligence; they show enthusiasm to learn and are not afraid of new challenging experiences. For them, learning is more important than performance and failure is seen as an obstacle to overcome. Moreover, the challenge excites them.
Our belief in what kind of intelligence we have plays an important role in our academic outcome. It is good to know, though, that intellectual ability can always be developed. However, this does not imply we all have the same potential in every area, or will learn everything with equal ease. The good news is mindsets and skills can be taught in order to achieve academic success. Check below a list of some key elements we should be aware of to promote a growth mindset and, consequently, academic success.
Praising plays an important role in the building of a person`s mindset - Praising students for their effort fosters resilience, a key trait in those who hold a growth mindset. Comments like “That’s a really high score. You must have worked hard at these problems.” make students understand that their effort was responsible for their success and want to work harder to be successful again.
Cooperation rather than competition promotes a better learning environment. Studies show that students believe that cooperation activities engage students more than competitive ones.
Another predictor of academic success is the feeling of social belonging. Students who develop a bond with their peers and teachers are more engaged, get better grades and are more successful at school.
Teachers and schools need to keep standards high and challenge students. High expectations foster motivated students because teachers invest more time on them, give more attention, constructive feedback and encouragement.
High-quality feedback with clever strategies to facilitate student understanding is among the strongest predictors of student accomplishment and teacher effectiveness. That is because it shows the commitment of the teacher to learning and belief in the student`s capacity for growth. Good teachers are like good parents—at times authoritative but consistently caring.
Scaffolding – Effective teacher seldom gives direct answers and feedback. Instead, they use hints, and gradually provide more specific hints until students answer a question correctly.
Sense of belonging – It`s important to create a sense of fellowship between students and teachers. One-on-one attention, caring relationships and good rapport is critical. Group work can bring motivational benefits because it encourages cooperation and makes students see that their difficulty with course material is another student`s difficulty as well. Moreover, this sharing lowers the sense of frustration and provides a sense of identity.
In a few words, remind your students that success is possible with dedication, and difficulty is something temporary they can overcome rather than something that is out of their control. Greater effort yields to greater competence and the more we believe in the students` ability to learn, the easier it is for us to do our jobs.