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Spring into a new groove

Photographs: Unsplash

Text: Monika Pedersen

Easter is the celebration of things coming back to life, as is represented in the Christian faith by the resurrection of Christ and the symbolic eggs, which also echo the theme of new life. Aligned with this is the season of Spring and all its glory of emerging flowers, leaf buds, and hope.

After the hardship of the winter, coupled with yet another year of Corona, there is a need to shake off the gloom, fatigue, and general malaise. It is a good time to revitalise energies and Spring forward into a different groove.

Growth mindset

This is not an easy manoeuvre, and it does not happen in an instance. However, adopting a growth mindset can help perceive situations, people, and personal issues through a more positive lens. Of course, it does not mean that the ‘problems’ disappear, but how to tackle them is different.

According to Carol Dweck, a leading psychologist and author in this field, a growth mindset is the belief that a person can grow and develop their abilities and become a better version of themselves. It focuses on wording, approach, and resilience. It is a whole shift away from being closed-minded and seeing failure as a door closing shut to believing that a setback is a chance to learn from a mistake, be enriched, and gain new opportunities.

It is an approach from which we can all benefit, especially young people, as they are often susceptible to self-doubt. A lack of self-confidence and the false belief that their lives should mirror those promoted by social media and trendsetters places a lot of negative pressure on today’s youth.

Fostering a growth mindset

Many schools adopt this instructional approach to better support their students, academically and emotionally.

One of the critical factors is to move away from the negative framing of progress. For example, if students do not perform well on a task or quiz, praise them for their success and discuss the steps they can take to achieve more in the future.

Incorporate the word ‘yet’ so when a child reverts to a ‘fixed’ mindset and cannot see a way forward, there is positivity projected in a statement such as, ‘you have not mastered it, yet, but you can and will’. The use of ‘yet’ states the temporary nature of the obstacle.

Avoid a very grade orientated approach and focus on the process and feedback, so students can develop the understanding and skills, and when these are secure, grading can be introduced. This helps remove the pressure to ‘make the grade’ instead of truly understanding.

Encourage students to take a leap in their learning. Reassure them that tackling challenging topics or concepts is a process and not an ‘instant’ accomplishment. Instead, learning and understanding are a series of errors and re-learnings to reinforce and solidify knowledge and skills.

“Reassure students that there are no 'stupid' questions, for questions are needed to seek out details and promote deeper understanding.”

Reassure students that there are no ‘stupid’ questions, for questions are needed to seek out details and promote deeper understanding. Praise them for ‘drilling down’ and grappling with difficult concepts.

When students answer questions, guide them to fully explain their ideas. Probe them gently and ask narrower questions, so students can deliver a fuller answer and demonstrate to themselves they have the knowledge and capacity. This helps them to build their self-confidence.

Endeavour to differentiate tasks, so students can achieve success at their level, giving them the momentum to want to move forward. Provide gradual building blocks to keep a child energised about their learning.

Have students reflect on their work, set goals for themselves over the year, and review them. This encourages students to see how they are progressing, address areas needing strengthening, and push themselves a little further by setting new targets. This also helps them take greater responsibility for their progress and learning.

A journey of learning

Developing a growth mindset is a long-term process that needs to be reaffirmed daily, and it will take longer for some students than others to adopt it and with different degrees of success. Nevertheless, it will support students in their academic and personal journey and provide them with life-long resilience.

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