The growth mindset is the belief that a person’s qualities, such as intelligence and capabilities, can be improved with experience, time, and effort. This means when a person with a growth mindset is confronted with a challenging problem, the person will always try to solve it, especially if mistakes take place and learning becomes crucial to finding the solution of the problem. In contrast, the fixed mindset is the belief that a person has limits to their qualities and that these fixed traits define this person. So if a person with a fixed mindset confronts the aforementioned challenge, this person will deem it too difficult and may not attempt to solve it.
It is thus extremely valuable to cultivate a growth mindset in students learning new languages. It allows for students to develop productive, positive habits and perspectives that help them go beyond the familiarity of their native tongue and witness the dynamism of themselves and language. With a growth mindset, students may see how limitless they can be as they evolve and learn. Here are three tips teachers can incorporate into their teaching styles that encourage a growth mindset.
Praise the Process
To instill a growth mindset in students, it’s a good idea to praise the processes that enable students to learn, move forward, and grow. For example, teachers should praise students that ask for help, find more effective methods to retain class materials, and reflect on what’s inhibiting them from learning. When confronted with a problem, students should see how it’s the process to find the solution that’s vital to success. It is the journey, not the destination, that matters.
A growth mindset means that students should not boil down their ability to learn and grow on whether they are intelligent enough or putting in enough effort. So to cultivate this mindset, it would be ideal for teachers to stay away from praising intelligence. Praising intelligence can promote it as a fixed trait and something that can’t be developed further. This is why praising the process is more beneficial: students should know they are always growing and that learning never stops.
Beyond giving praise, teacher feedback that encourages students to evaluate themselves and how they learn can help them develop a growth mindset. Ideal constructive feedback would involve teachers asking their students questions that push students to delve into themselves and their learning processes. Questions like “what helped you remember these phrases and words” or “why do think a certain method helped you memorize and understand a class material” are examples that urge students to analyze what does and doesn’t work for them.
It is critical for students to take the time to reflect and understand themselves and how they learn because it helps them identify how to grow—to take the next steps in advancing themselves. Let’s emphasize the importance of self-reflection to students, especially as they grow older, change, and encounter even more difficult problems.
Teaching a New Language
The last two suggestions we’ve made about how teachers can cultivate a growth mindset in their students has led up to this final, encompassing point: teaching students a new language to speak to themselves. And this doesn’t mean teaching them another foreign language! The suggested language here is focused on switching simple, fixed mindset phrases to growth mindset phrases. It is meant to be a perspective shift, one that helps students see obstacles and challenges as opportunities to learn.
So if students say, “this is too hard to remember,” recommend them to say, “I’m going to figure out another way to remember this.” This is just one example! There are also many teachers that believe in the weight of the word “yet.” Remind students of how they have “yet” to solve or understand something and it can help establish to students how they are simply on their way to an answer. As we teach our students a new language, it’s important to consider how students talk to and encourage themselves to achieve their goals and assignments.
Let us know what you think about nurturing a growth mindset in students. Do you think it’s productive for students to have a growth mindset? How do you foster a growth mindset in your students or in yourself?