As our Network Team and CIA staff have been reading Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset for the past few months, I’ve been seeing connections to our vision of changing education for all of our students in the Central New York region. The movement towards Project-Based Learning (PBL) in our area school districts is about changing the way our students learn so they are prepared for their future, not our past. Weaving 21st Century competencies, such as critical thinking/problem solving, creativity, communication, and collaboration/innovation, with the significant content of Common Core Learning Standards, Literacy Standards and other content area standards creates learning that is deeper and more relevant for our students. An inquiry-based approach to understanding content gives students the opportunity to drive their learning and generates more engaged students in our classrooms. Our collected effort in making significant shifts in our instructional practices will be for nothing unless we can also develop a growth mindset in our staff and students.
What is a growth mindset? Here is the definition on mindsetonline.com:
In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.
Well, isn’t that what we want for our students? If we truly believe that ALL students can learn at the highest levels, then we need to develop growth mindsets in our students and the whole school community.
How does PBL fit in? The National Research Council and Institute of Medicine summarized decades of research to identify school conditions that promote strong student engagement and growth mindsets. Here are the strategies and school conditions they identified and the connections I made to PBL:
|Strategy/School Condition||PBL Essential Connection|
|Presenting students with challenging but achievable tasks||Standards-Based Project Planning that includes a Task Analysis|
|Communicating high expectations for student learning and providing supports that allow students to meet those expectations||Standards-Based Project Planning that includes a Task Analysis|
|Making evaluation practices clear and fair and providing ample feedback||Rubrics, Revision and Reflection|
|Reinforcing and modeling a commitment to education and being explicit about the value of education to the quality of one’s life||21st Century Skills and Publicly Presented Product to an Authentic Audience|
|Providing students with opportunities to exercise autonomy and choice in their academic work||Voice and Choice|
|Requiring students to use higher-order thinking to complete academic tasks||Inquiry and Innovation|
|Structuring tasks to emphasize active participation in learning activities rather than passively “receiving” learning||Driving Question, Need to Know|
|Emphasizing variety in how material is presented and the tasks students are asked to do||Inquiry and Innovation|
|Requiring students to collaborate and interact with one another when learning new material||21st Century Skills|
|Emphasizing the connection of schoolwork to students’ lives and interests and to life outside of school||Need to Know, Publicly Presented Product to an Authentic Audience|
|Encouraging teachers to be fair, supportive, and dedicated to student learning while holding high expectations for student work||Rubrics, Revision and Reflection|
(Teaching Adolescents to Become Learners, Farrington et al, 2004)
A growth mindset leads to the belief that intelligence can be developed and that changing a students’ mindset can lead to increased academic performance. Eduardo Briceno’s TedX Talk on Growth Mindsets summarizes Carol Dweck’s research findings on improved academic performance and mindset. I believe that pairing PBL in schools with an understanding of developing a growth mindset can help change education so that our students are ready for their future and any challenges they face. What are your thoughts on this topic? How are you using the principles of growth mindset in your classroom?