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The Growth Mindset Classroom: A Place for Validation or Challenge?

Posted by Francis Vigeant on Oct 11, 2016

growth mindset plant model.jpg

The fixed mindset has dominated classrooms for years, but it doesn’t leave room for students to really operate as scientists and engineers as the Next Generation Science Standards require.

When you think about creating a true next generation science class, you have to think about the power of yet and the need to challenge student skills, which aren’t set in stone.

If we want to truly create an environment in which effective STEM instruction can take root, we must move away from the limiting idea of a fixed mindset and toward a true growth mindset, which is required in any science and engineering climate.

The whole aim of the Next Generation Science Standards is to help students participate in their learning as scientists and engineers, to create, evaluate, and analyze.

To do this, we must think differently about students and their abilities. We need to help champion a vision in which students' abilities are not carved in stone. They are not fixed due to socio-economics, intellect, or even the kind of student they were last year.

Regardless of any of those factors, every student’s success will be determined by the effort and the persistence they put in, as well as the habits that they form that are coached by the educator.

Effective Science Instruction Requires a Growth Mindset

When you match a growth mindset with the definition of what constitutes effective science instruction, you can see that engaging students in next generation inquiry means challenging them to work harder and believing in their ability to work toward a successful outcome.

The result is an effective science classroom where students are engaged in developing skills in an environment that actually pushes them to develop those skills. This classroom is one in which students are actually engaged in developing their knowledge and skills to try and solve problems and answer questions. This can be true whether they're in 2nd grade, 6th grade, or high school.

Students should be able to answer the questions: Why are we doing this? Why do we have science class?

They need to understand that the purpose of science class is so they can actually be scientists and engineers, so they can take what they know, develop it, use it, learn skills, and actually participate in answering their own questions and solving their own problems.

The Power of Yet to Reframe Mistakes

If we can truly instill the growth mindset, we can also leverage the power of yet to reframe mistakes. Dweck describes the “power of yet” as the reframing the thought from “if I’ll achieve” to “when I’ll achieve.” 

Processing error is valuable, because we can learn from it, correct it, collect more data, and grow. Mistakes and failure, in this philosophy, are very different things. Failure is shutting down and giving up. Mistakes are things we can learn from. It’s only by refusing the challenge that we fail.

The science classroom needs to become a place where students learn to cope with mistakes, take risks, and develop skills that they use to answer questions and solve problems. They learn that taking risks and maybe failing is a growth mechanism, what real scientists and engineers do every day.

This is how true scientists and engineers think—they keep going in the face of challenge, in the face of experiments that don’t confirm hypotheses or answer questions, in the face of prototypes that fall flat and don’t solve problems.

This post was updated on Feb. 16, 2018.

Topics: Growth Mindset

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