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How to Instill a Growth Mindset in Your School District

Heath Morrison, superintendent for Montgomery ISD, on how to develop a growth mindset for your school district.

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The world is changing—drastically, in many cases—and the education industry must keep up. Amid significant cultural shifts, school districts must modify their learning approaches to accommodate change. Creating a growth mindset is one of the most powerful ways a superintendent can encourage their communities to remain forward-thinking and optimistic.

What is a Growth Mindset?

Regarding students, “a growth mindset is when students understand that their abilities can be developed.” However, this definition limits the growth mindset to one component of a school community. Students are not the only individuals who can grow and change—teachers, educators, and education leaders can improve through concentrated efforts. 

Instilling a growth mindset does more than enable school districts to grow—it encourages them to grow.  

Studies have proven the effectiveness of growth mindsets for school districts. For example, one study of over 160,000 students found that schools with growth mindset values saw higher levels of achievement and performance than schools without this mindset. What’s more, the study identified that rates of growth mindset improvement were similar across socioeconomic lines. In essence, this study demonstrates the equitable benefits of growth mindsets.

How To Instill a Growth Mindset

Superintendents hoping to instill a growth mindset in their school district should keep the following points in mind: 

  • It is a cultural change, and that takes time.
  • It has to be promoted consistently and thoroughly.
  • Stakeholders need to maintain ownership of the process.
  • The mindset should be modeled from the top down.

Yes, the goal of a growth mindset is increased student achievement, but the mindset needs to be encouraged in students and staff alike. Teachers need to model positive attitudes for students to see it work effectively.

What Does a Growth Mindset Look Like in the Classroom?

Creating a growth mindset is a consistent, multi-step process. The following tasks should be taken into account to disseminate growth mindsets throughout the district:

  1. Praise effort and the process of learning instead of the outcome
  2. Set challenging, yet achievable expectations
  3. Establish a culture of collaboration and self-reflection
  4. Providing positive feedback and highlight successes
  5. Focusing on mistakes as a learning opportunity
  6. Teaching self-monitoring and positive self-talk

Creating a Long-Term Growth Mindset

Over time, the school community will fully appreciate and regularly practice the tenets of a growth mindset. To encourage this process, remind students and educators to track their personal, professional, and academic progress throughout the year. Then, allow them time to reflect on their performances. This can be done mentally, but a physical journal or success folder can be a helpful resource. 

Overall, a growth mindset allows everyone to grow individually while forming a network of compassion and support. This sets students up for success in learning and gives educators the chance to have the most significant impact.

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