To the Editor:
Educators talk about growth mindset, but how much do we really know? Not enough, as revealed in a recent Education Week article (“Teachers Seize On ‘Growth Mindset,’ But Classroom Practice Lags,” Sept. 21, 2016). And what we do know can easily be misapplied, as the researcher Carol Dweck pointed out in her Commentary last year when she asked, “Must it always come back to finding a reason why some children just can’t learn, as opposed to finding a way to help them learn?” (“Growth Mindset, Revisited,” Sept. 23, 2015).
I would argue that it’s complicated, but that a simple choice can guide us: We can make it about us as teachers, or we can make it about them as students.
The choice reveals fundamental assumptions about who is responsible in the end for change and growth in the classroom. A practice-focused approach asks how teachers can change to improve student learning; a student-focused approach asks how they can grow and adapt to learn what is taught.
When teachers focus on changing their approaches, they can build a community of learners based on the notion that everyone in the classroom is more alike than different and that similarities are a source of strength, even while recognizing that differences are what set people apart from one another.
Using a practice-based approach that focuses on teachers'—rather than students'—adaptation is a more difficult approach, but in the end, it is one more way that we can structure the learning environment to help students succeed.
A version of this article appeared in the October 26, 2016 edition of Education Week as Balancing ‘Growth Mindset’ With Classroom Practices