Our Conditions for Learning: Spotlight on Mindset


Our system wide professional learning day is rapidly approaching; a day which is focused on numeracy.  Our Conditions for Learning are the foundation for achieving success in numeracy; thus we will spend time in the morning on that day analyzing these conditions in relation to our adult learning.  Specifically, we will spotlight Growth Mindset – a condition for learning that has received much attention in the past couple of years.  The next few postings will hopefully inspire all of our leaders to post their thinking.

I included the graphic above as I believe that this is a simple way to get us thinking about how what we say and do (what we model) daily really says a great deal about our mindset. Last year I engaged in a mindset quiz and was shocked (and appalled) at my outcome – I had more of a fixed mindset.  My reaction to the results actually supported the results – as I immediately began to self-reflect in order to prove that the results were wrong.  What an excellent example of a fixed mindset in action…to begin to argue with a computer to justify why it was wrong, instead of thinking about how with effort, motivation and perseverance (grit), I could improve my learning and leading stance.

Since then, I have increased my awareness in one area that I know makes a difference in fostering a growth mindset – that of praise.  In my educational life, I have been immersed in learning about feedback and the difference between praise and feedback.  I recall leading professional learning sessions where we provided a document that distinguished between praise and feedback and the conversation that resulted; educators began to see that precise feedback according to the learning goals and criteria for success (outcome) was critical to move thinking forward, while praise was an essential part of encouraging the process or the action that the students engaged in. For example, telling a student that I noted that they “worked hard on their assignment” is praise that encourages a growth mindset.  David Sousa in How the Gifted Brain Learns (2009) points out that “children who are praised for their intelligence learn to value performance, while children praised for their efforts and hard work value opportunities to learn” (pg. 34).

Do the students in your buildings understand that they can make their brains grow?  How is this work embedded into our school learning plans?  Are we explicitly teaching students to have a growth mindset?  Can you provide some examples? Until next week…

Growth Mindset What Else Can I Say


8 responses

  1. Recently, the Grade 8 Orientation at LSHS, I was standing beside a parent who was telling a few parents how smart her daughter was, how they wanted to move her from JK to Gr 1 (not our board haha) and how she never had any problems with her marks; oh yes, her daughter was standing right beside her. I saw the mother a few days later and bit my tongue (yes I did) as I wanted to have a conversation with her to change the way she talked to her child.

    With adult children at home our conversations often resort to how they were raised. One particular remark they often make is that we never told them how good they were in school, but that they had to work hard. In sports etc. the same thing applies when they aren’t successful at winning or making a team. Discuss how they will have to work harder, but you’re not going to talk to the coach, “Prove that you should be the best or are better,” (if that’s their desire)and then support or make things available for them to improve. It builds the growth mindset, just not in the formal setting of school.


    1. The fact that they are very aware, as adults, of the fact that you praised their effort is a sign that they have growth mindsets! Wow!


  2. The idea of mindset is something I am always thinking about as both a parent and an educator. In our focus on writing this year we have really been thinking about our reluctant writers. Those that say, “I don’t know what to write about” “It’s too hard” “I hate writing”, or those that do the bare minimum or completely refuse to write anything. I’m sure you have heard these words before and can visualize similar students in your schools, and it may not be writing, it could be reading or math. We have really been thinking about, how we can start to encourage these students to think of themselves as capable in the area of writing? Our thought is that if we provide students with an opportunity for success they may start to see themselves as capable and eventually as writers. In the past we have always been focused on grade level exemplars and expectations. STudents would be presented with an exemplar of grade level writing and probably after 1 glance at it thought; “I will never be able to do that!” They were defeated before they even started. This year we have decided to get rid of the grade levels on all of our exemplars and checklists and provide students with exemplars and writing goals that are within their reach. We are using a writing progression so that students can see where they are at and what they need to do to get to the next level. If we honour students where they are at and provide targets that are just out of their reach then students will experience success in a timely manner and begin to see themselves as competent and capable. We have 2 teachers who also came to this realization in math the other day. They gave the problem we were presented with in the Teaching STudents with Learning Disablities in Math to their students They said that by being aware of the potential solutions students could use to solve the problem they were able to highlight students at various levels of thinking. They purposefully chose student work to congress based on the strategies that students used. This meant that students who used beginning strategies were sharing along with students who used more advanced strategies. They were proud and had the opportunity to share. By being aware of student strategies they are also able to provide students with a clear next step in solving those types of problems. It is our hope that by providing students with these targets and manageable next steps we will start to see an impact on their mindset!

    My question to everyone…..
    WE know that in order to improve mindset we have to be about the process, the growth not the end result (grade level). But unfortunately there comes a time when we have to assign and evaluation, a judgement on their progress. All through the year we are providing students with feedback and next steps based on where they are at and celebrating their progress and growth and then come February and June we have to assign that letter grade. So how do we avoid dashing student’s feelings about themselves and their progress when they see that letter grade on their report cards? I would love your thoughts as this is a real issue we will be faced with this year….


    1. I wonder if what really matters with a growth mindset is how the student accepts the letter grade on their report card…do they look at it as a sign of weakness within themselves (if the grade is low) and thus begin to avoid the subject area for fear of the challenge… or do they see this grade and the comments that accompany it as an opportunity to act, the grow and to pay more attention to that area of study? I think that growth mindset students really see that if they work hard, they will improve. However this needs to be taught along the way…students need practice in this – they need to be reminded that hard work pays off – as often as possible. They also need to be encouraged – to be supported – when the result isn’t quite what they expect (everyone needs to experience failure in order to develop a growth mindset) – which is where clear success criteria (the target) is vitally important. We need to ensure that students have clear targets that through hard work, they can meet. Thoughts?


  3. I too was surprised when completing the mindset survey! For the sake of the students/children in our lives we want to believe that we have a growth mind set. In order for our students to have belief in a growth mind set we have to have the adults in the building who understand what it means to have a growth mindset. I try to guide my work based on our students and what is best for them. It is a journey of all the learners in the building to know that we can do better and stretch our brains! Not an easy task but one of “responsiveness”.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are absolutely right Heidi – it is not an easy task for sure. I am practicing with my language – think that is my first step. I am constantly asking “did you work hard? how do you know? is this your best work?”…for me it is about a new “way of being”!


  4. As many of you, I like to believe that I have a growth mindset. As an educator, as a parent, and as a coach, I know it is so important. If we want to talk sports analogies…”Did you skate hard and did you pass to your team mates? are always the first question that I ask…never how many goals did you score. But I do question if I really do have a growth mindset or if it just that I know this is what I have to do. When I think about my own challenges, whether they are at work or outside of work, I sometimes feel like I do not. Sometimes I feel like it is situational…
    Kellie – I hear what you are saying about report cards, which is why I think it is so important to look at the improvements/growth rather than just the final marks. Makes me think of the level 2 student on EQAO. Sure it is a 2, but if it is a 2.9 and it used to be a low 2, then there is celebration to be had!


    1. And that is why we need to peel back the layers and look at a variety of assessments. Celebrations come in many forms and it is up to us to let our students see themselves in these celebrations and celebrate their growth. In a students mind I wonder if some don’t feel that they hit a growth wall and are not sure how to navigate around or over it. Not easy!


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