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Growth Mindsets Key for Students and Teachers

June 24, 2015


At BetterLesson we are constantly thinking about growth mindsets. As a small start-up interested in having an outsized impact on teacher learning, we have to tackle big challenges with limited resources. This means everyone on our team has to be ready to stretch themselves; evolving and growing professionally, as we work to launch our new professional learning platform, TeachCycle.

We aren’t alone in our interest in growth mindset development ( see millions of Ted Talks on the subject). Educators especially have become increasingly interested in developing growth mindsets in their students. Inspired by the powerful work of Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, teachers (and parents alike) are recognizing that students need the mental tools to tackle challenges inside and outside the classroom.  Students need to see learning (in any context) as an ongoing, ever-evolving process. Greatness, is something developed through hard work and dedication. No “master” ( think Michael Jordan, Beyonce, Charles Dickens) is born with all the skills necessary for success, everyone has to struggle, even fail, as a natural part of the learning process.

As educators, we value  grit and perseverance in our students. It’s only natural, that we should value the same traits in our teachers.  Teachers need support and training to develop these critical growth mindsets. After all, no teacher (no matter how masterful) ever bursts into the world (or classroom) fully-formed.  Likewise, no struggling teacher is doomed to failure. Teachers who embrace a growth mindset in their own professional life, know that even the best teachers make mistakes. What sets masterful teachers apart, is their ability to reflect and learn from mis-steps and course correct quickly.  In today’s ever-changing educational landscape, growth-minded teachers are better equipped to tackle new and varied challenges.

So how do you develop a growth mindset in teachers? At BetterLesson, we have been working on this particular professional learning challenge for some time. TeachCycle, our new professional learning platform, aims to empower teachers to quickly learn what works for their students (and what doesn’t). Shifting mindsets is a huge part of the process. During TeachCycle, teachers work with a BetterLesson coach and tackle a series of high-leverage teaching challenges. These challenges break down the myriad problems of practice a teacher may face at any time into discrete manageable chunks. By focusing in on a challenge, teachers are able to try-out new strategies in a targeted way, and learn “what works” for their particular students and teaching styles. Teachers use the principles of fast cycle learning, to implement and evaluate the effectiveness of these strategies. Sometimes the strategies work fantastically, other times strategies misfire, but because teachers are immediately collecting data, they can adjust quickly to both failure and success.

TeachCycle focuses on building steady positive momentum. In the face of challenges, there is ALWAYS, something a teacher can do (whether big or small) to impact student learning. Moreover, every teacher can learn something from the TeachCycle process. No matter where you are on the teacher development spectrum, newbie and sensei alike can refine and develop their practice, by honing in on their teacher moves and their direct effect on student achievement. This process of continuous improvement empowers teachers to develop growth mindsets. In TeachCycle teacher learning is never fixed or finished!

Teachers in our TeachCycle pilots often make their process explicit to their students and are transparent about their efforts to grow and evolve as an educator. In doing so, they model the growth mindsets they seek to instill in their students. This transparency is key and so valuable for teachers and students alike, together they are partners on a lifelong journey of learning and growth.

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