they get for it, but what they become by it. —John Ruskin
physical confidence might join a sports
team; or a shy student might approach
other students she would like to
befriend. Students can share their plans
and even help one another enhance
their skills and reach their goal.
Building a Growth Mindset
Within a classroom culture that supports
a growth mindset, teachers can design
meaningful learning tasks and present
them in a way that fosters students’
resilience and long-term achievement.
Emphasize Challenge, Not “Success”
Meaningful learning tasks need to challenge every student in some way. It is
crucial that no student be able to coast
to success time after time; this experience can create the fixed-mindset
belief that you are smart only if you can
succeed without effort.
To prevent this, teachers can identify
students who have easily mastered the
material and design in-class assignments
that include some problems or exercises
that require these students to stretch.
This way, the teacher will be close at
hand to guide students if necessary and
get them used to (and ultimately excited
about) the challenging work. Some
teachers have told me that after a while,
students begin to select or create challenging tasks for themselves.
When presenting learning tasks to
students, the teacher should portray
challenges as fun and exciting, while
portraying easy tasks as boring and less
useful for the brain. When students
initially struggle or make mistakes, the
teacher should view this as an oppor-
tunity to teach students how to try dif-
ferent strategies if the first ones don’t
work—how to step back and think
about what to try next, like a detective
solving a mystery.
© SUSIE FITZHUGH
insight into what the student does
and does not understand and teach
the student to struggle through knotty
Give a Sense of Progress
Meaningful learning tasks give students
a clear sense of progress leading to
mastery. This means that students can
see themselves doing tasks they couldn’t
do before and understanding concepts they couldn’t understand before.
Work that gives students a sense of
improvement as a result of effort gives
teachers an opportunity to praise students for their process. That is, teachers
can point out that the students’ efforts
were what led to the progress and
improvement over time.
Some teachers make students’
progress explicit by giving pre-tests at
the beginning of a unit that purposely
cover material students do not know.
When students compare their inevitably
poor performance on these pre-tests
with their improved performance on
unit post-tests, they get used to the idea
that, with application, they can become
Homework is an especially important
component of an instructional program