How To

Fostering a Growth Mindset for Teachers



To say that campus administrators have much on their plates would be an understatement. Along with instructional leadership, administrators also have to navigate professional learning communities and teacher evaluations, student discipline and behavior management, the safety and operations of a school building, facilitating partnerships with families and community members, and of course, cultivating a strong campus culture among all school stakeholders. 

Still, with this significant responsibility comes great influence—the influence to shape mindsets at every level of a school, from how parents view the effectiveness of a campus’s instructional program to the way students view themselves and their deservedness of an exceptional education. As such, it’s integral for administrators to leverage their influence to nurture productive attitudes centered around a growth mindset among those on the front lines of schools—teachers. This singular focus can result in some of the most powerful academic and social outcomes for students.

What is a growth mindset?

A growth mindset, which emphasizes the belief that abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work rather than predetermined by fixed ability, is a crucial attribute for educators to possess (Duckworth et al. 2007; Dweck 2006). Teachers must maintain a growth mindset not only to enhance their effectiveness but also to influence the learning outcomes and attitudes of their students.

Teachers who possess a growth mindset are significantly better equipped to support their students’ learning in a positive way (Dweck 2006). A teacher with a growth mindset views failures and mistakes as opportunities for improvement, thereby modeling resilience and perseverance for their students. By embracing a growth mindset, teachers create a learning environment wherein students feel empowered to take risks, challenge themselves, and persist even in the face of difficulties.

That being said, teachers need as much modeling of a growth mindset as their students do. As the leaders of the campus, it is integral that administrators work conscientiously to engage teachers in practices that will promote a growth mindset and illustrate its positive benefits. Below are some ways that administrators can specifically focus on cultivating a growth mindset among teachers.

How to foster a growth mindset for teachers

LEVERAGE PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Organizing professional development workshops centered around a growth mindset can be incredibly beneficial. These sessions can explore the principles of grit, emphasizing the importance of perseverance and passion for long-term goals, and provide practical strategies for developing resilience in the face of challenges (Tough, 2012). 

Campus leaders can leverage ongoing professional development opportunities to reinforce and deepen teachers’ understanding of a growth mindset in their reflection of their instructional practice, as well as in their expectations of their students. This may involve incorporating growth mindset-centered protocols into existing practices, such as instructional coaching sessions or professional learning communities (PLCs). For example, teachers could be encouraged to reflect on their own experiences of overcoming challenges and setbacks in their work, identifying strategies that have helped them to develop resilience (Strauss, 2013).

Additionally, professional development could include role-playing exercises that demonstrate how a growth mindset can impact teaching practices and subsequent student outcomes (Gill, 2016). By integrating discussions of a growth mindset into the fabric of professional learning, campus leaders can ensure that these concepts remain at the forefront of teachers’ minds as they work with students.

MODEL WHAT IS EXPECTED OF OTHERS

As campus administrators, it’s always essential to lead by example. Demonstrating a growth mindset in their work and decision-making processes can inspire teachers to adopt similar attitudes and behaviors in their classrooms and with their colleagues (Duckworth et al. 2007; Dweck 2006).

Create—and adhere to—norms during meetings of PLCs that actively demonstrate a growth mindset. For instance, set a norm that adults in the room will only discuss students as though the students are in their presence. This norm can prevent “venting” about students in a way that condones deficit thinking. It holds teachers accountable for discussing data objectively and working together to determine the most productive steps forward. Moreover, campus leaders can model these practices in real time so that teachers can see examples of discussing student progress with a positive outlook and a focus on closing academic gaps, rather than concentrating on student deficits. 

Campus leaders can also exhibit a growth mindset by embracing opportunities for learning and growth themselves. This may involve seeking out professional development opportunities, engaging in reflective practice, and actively seeking feedback from colleagues and stakeholders (Gill, 2016). By demonstrating a willingness to continuously improve and develop their skills, leaders communicate to teachers that growth is an ongoing process and that intelligence and abilities can be cultivated through effort and practice (Yeager & Dweck, 2012).

PROVIDE RESOURCES AND SUPPORT

Offering resources and support to teachers is crucial for cultivating grit and a growth mindset. This could include access to professional development opportunities, mentoring programs, and materials on fostering resilience and perseverance in the classroom (Duckworth et al. 2007; Dweck 2006).

Encourage staff to engage in book studies using text that reinforces a growth mindset, such as The Growth Mindset Coach (2022) by Annie Brock and Heather Hundley, which can provide teachers with tangible, actionable steps toward building their mindsets while also helping them feel more connected to the larger teaching community.  

Another resource for teachers could be The Opportunity Myth (2018), a report that specifically explains the importance of teachers’ mindsets toward students, and the ways that those mindsets can inadvertently hold them back from achieving grade-level and long-term success. Giving teachers access to a resource that pushes them to reflect upon their own thinking, as well as the impact that thinking has on students, is an effective way to lead them toward developing a growth mindset.

ENCOURAGE COLLABORATION, REFLECTION, AND FEEDBACK

Fostering a collaborative culture among teachers can also contribute to the development of a growth mindset. Encourage collaboration, sharing of best practices, and support networks among educators to help them navigate challenges and achieve their goals (Duckworth et al. 2007; Dweck 2006).

It can often be a vulnerable experience for teachers to receive feedback about their instructional skills, but creating a culture whereby feedback is constant, inescapable, and low-risk is the key to helping teachers become more open-minded. When teachers receive feedback from their peers, they may be more likely to accept the constructive feedback as it’s coming from a professional working within similar circumstances and shared experiences. 

When teachers recognize that they have room to grow in their own instruction, and that their skill is determined by their willingness to reflect and refine their practice—not by an implicit ability—they are then more likely to transfer that belief to their students. Teachers can recognize that just as lessons can be improved, so can the products and tasks that students work on in class. 

Finally, campus leaders can create a supportive and growth-oriented culture by recognizing and celebrating the efforts of teachers. By publicly acknowledging teachers’ hard work, creativity, and dedication, leaders reinforce the importance of a growth mindset in achieving success (Tough, 2012).

Takeaways

  • Cultivating and nurturing a growth mindset among teachers is essential for creating an environment wherein students can thrive academically and personally. 
  • By providing professional development opportunities, modeling desired behaviors, offering resources and support, and fostering a collaborative culture of reflection and feedback, campus administrators can empower teachers to build this essential belief in themselves—and ultimately, in their students.

References

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