when met with struggle, focus on strategies

we’re sure that many of you are like us and have hung on carol dweck’s research on the benefits of a growth mindset for your students  – benefits for them as people, as learners, but also benefits for your classroom community – and looked for ways to help foster this kind of growth mindset in your kids.

in a recent article we read, dweck addressed some of the misunderstandings of her research around mindsets. one area that stood out to us was the dangers of praising the effort when a student is struggling or failing. dweck said, “teachers were just praising effort that was not effective, saying “wow, you tried really hard!” but students know that if they didn’t make progress and you’re praising them, it’s a consolation prize. they also know you think they can’t do any better. so this kind of growth-mindset idea was misappropriated to try to make kids feel good when they were not achieving.”

it’s well-intended, and feels good, to offer a student who’s struggling, and even failing, some praise, often in the name of boosting her confidence. dweck got us thinking, though, that we certainly don’t want to be encouraging our students to continue doing things that won’t lead them to growth or success. our goal is to have students accept challenge and failure as a chance to grow and do better, to see challenge and failure as a chance to change and improve.

what, specifically, can we do to support students who are struggling? what feedback or prompting is beneficial for us to give?

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it’s better together: creating partnerships in a classroom.

we’d do almost anything to avoid the looks of disappointment that kids sometimes give when they’re paired with a classmate with whom they’d rather not work. for this reason, it’s rare that we partner kids in our classroom on the spot, and instead use already established partnerships. established partnerships are important for reasons beyond avoiding hurt feelings, though. if we’re going to ask kids to engage in rigorous and collaborative talk and reflection, to be a part of a community that really knows and respects one another, then well-established partnerships are a non-negotiable.

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the classroom technology that we. just. love.

we get that sometimes technology can be a hassle, and feel hesitant to use it for the sake of using it. like, if there’s already a good way to do something without technology or if there’s a face-to-face interaction that gets eliminated by the use of technology, we aren’t as likely to get behind it. but! there are some ways we’ve grown to love using technology in our classroom, that have helped us nurture connections that may not be there otherwise, boost student engagement, and support student learning.

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