Mindset: A Key Ingredient to Building Teacher Capacity

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Preparing teachers to utilize technology in their classrooms can be challenging. Fears and insecurities often hold back incredibly capable teachers from exploring new methods of instruction. My challenge as a peer coach and professional development coordinator is to help teachers move out of their comfort zone to explore new teaching and learning methods. Encouraging a growth mindset is one effective approach.

Encouraging a growth mindset in teachers entails giving them permission to try, fail, and try again. If you haven't read Mindset by Carol Dweck, I highly recommend it. In Mindset, Dr. Dweck explains the difference between a fixed mindset, the belief that intelligence or talent are fixed traits, and a growth mindset, the belief that intelligence or talent can be developed. Once she provides examples and implications of the mindsets, Dr. Dweck provides tips on teaching both mindsets. While it is up to the person to reframe their thinking and move towards a growth mindset, educators can help fixed mindset individuals approach a challenge with less resistance. Before reading Mindset, I was the "Pollyanna cheerleader" who often began sessions by saying, "This is going to be super easy, and you are going to get the hang of this in no time!" While I was trying to be encouraging, the fixed mindset teacher heard, "If you don't get this quickly, you aren't smart and you'll never be able to do things like this." Yikes! Immediate shutdown! My words of encouragement were actually disheartening to anyone in the room with a fixed mindset. Thanks to Mindset, I reframed my discussions when I work with teachers. Now, when introducing a new concept, skill, or program, I explain, "The more we practice this skill (concept, program) the better we will get at it. Trying and messing up is part of the process, and I will be here to help you. With effort, we will accomplish our goal." The results have been fabulous. Educators who have been nervous, stressed, or resistant in training sessions are now freer to ask for help and are open to new experiences.

You can learn more about mindsets by watching an interview with Dr. Dweck. You can also read some of her articles: Even Geniuses Work Hard and Boosting Achievement.

How do you help teachers feel more comfortable with branching out in their lesson design and technology integration?

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