November 02, 2018

Mini Musings - Growth Mindset

by Mary Kimball, Lower School Director

“Can you justify your thinking?”
“Did you make any interesting mistakes?”
“Why does that answer make sense?”

In Lower School, we discuss what types of questions or responses assist students to develop a healthy growth mindset. We have been guided by the work of Jo Boaler, a Stanford professor of mathematics. On her website,, she explains:

The term "growth mindset" comes from the groundbreaking work of Carol Dweck. She identified everyone holds ideas about their own potential. Some people believe that their intelligence is more or less fixed and that in math – that you can do math or you can’t. About 40% of students have these damaging "fixed mindset" ideas. Another 40% have a "growth mindset" – they believe that they can learn anything and that their intelligence can grow. The other 20% waver between the two mindsets. Students with a fixed mindset are those who are more likely to give up easily, whereas students with a growth mindset are those who keep going even when work is hard and who are persistent."

Gloria Ladson Billings once described teachers as “dream-keepers.” I really like this description. It communicates the opportunities that teachers have to help students achieve their dreams. This begins by believing that all students have the potential to achieve at high levels. When a teacher lets a student know, “I am giving you this feedback because I believe in you,” the student has something to concretely embrace and work towards. This provides new opportunities to grow and learn. Recently, our faculty revisited the article, “How Not to Talk to Your Kids.” Please enjoy reading the article and partner with us as we continue to help our students reach their fullest potential.

How Not to Talk to Your Kids