Professional Development Opinion

Does your Human Capital System Foster a Growth Mindset?

By Emily Douglas-McNab — September 19, 2014 1 min read
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This is a guest post by Naima Khandaker. Naima is a Human Capital Consultant at Battelle for Kids, and a Ph.D. student in Educational Psychology at The Ohio State University.

Benjamin Franklin dropped out of school when he was ten years old. J.K. Rowling was a single mother on welfare when she began writing the Harry Potter series. And it’s reported that a studio executive once wrote about Fred Astaire, “Can’t sing. Can’t act. Slightly balding. Can dance a little.”

Educators know their classrooms and schools are bastions of untapped potential. They know the students they serve are capable of greatness, even when students themselves don’t feel that way. Their belief in their students’ abilities is a powerful force that drives their work, every day.

Beyond intuition, the idea that people can strengthen their abilities--from intelligence to talent--through effort and perseverance is supported by a substantial body of research led by Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck. Dweck and colleagues have found that people who believe they can develop their basic abilities have higher motivation and achievement than those who believe those qualities are fixed.

The idea of the growth mindset is quickly gaining traction in education as a framework for helping students thrive. Dweck suggests that teachers can foster a growth mindset in students by helping them set personal goals, encouraging them to embrace challenge rather than pursue easy tasks for the sake of “success,” and giving them a clear sense of their progress as they work toward mastery.

In the spirit of “practice what you preach,” it is equally important for school districts to foster a growth mindset in educators so that they can do the same for their students. How? Consider your organization’s human capital practices. Does your evaluation system promote growth, or judgment? Does your professional development system account for teachers’ individual strengths and needs? Are teachers and principals rewarded for taking risks, or are compliance and completion the end goals?

An organization’s human capital system sends clear messages about its culture and values. Policies and practices that promote growth and challenge tell educators that the organization believes in their potential--a message they relay to students every day.

“Light Bulb In Hand” image by FreeDigitalImages.net user twobee.

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