Lulu Ross Elementary has adopted a new way of thinking as students begin to understand that hard work is the key to success in any subject. Believing that their abilities and intelligence can be developed over time, not just a natural talent they are born with, students are learning that they can actually become smarter through struggling with academics. This approached, called Growth Mindset, is being taught across the nation including Ms. Kelly Dee’s classroom at Lulu Ross Elementary School in Milford, DE.
Labeled the Growth Mindset by Dr. Carol Dweck from Stanford University, this approach to learning explains two very different ways that children are praised for their success. In a fixed mindset students are praised for how intelligent or smart they are, not for the process of working. According to Dr, Dweck, these children begin to think that their natural born intelligence is how they created success and many times these children give up as soon as they are met with a difficult challenge. In contrast, in a Growth Mindset strategy, teachers and family members praise the hard work of the child. These children believe that their own ability to work hard made them successful. According to Dr. Dweck, these children will begin to take on other challenges and believe in their own abilities to learn and succeed.
Teaching the Growth Mindset to her Elementary students, Ms. Dee believes that her classroom is learning that no one pupil is naturally smart or better at one subject, but that all of them can succeed by working hard, through effort. “The kids are beginning to understand what productive struggling is, they understand that they need to preserver through problems in order to learn.” Dee states that her students have embraced productive struggling and now develop an action plan to to come up with solutions. “It’s not about being perfect but allowing them to see that struggling is alright.”
Lulu Ross Principal Cindy McKenzie states that the Growth Mindset teaches children how to develop strategies themselves and how to figure out problem on their own, outside of the classroom. “I hope that they can take this skill with them and that the effort of hard work will get them where they need to be,” stated McKenzie. “It is not always who people believe to be the smartest individual that is the most successful, many times it is the individual that had the ability to face life’s challenges.”
Ms. Dee admits that this new learning process for children can be a balancing act for teachers and students alike. Although teachers want to let their students push themselves intellectual as far as they can go without help, teachers must also know when real assistance is needed. Students must also challenge themselves but know when they need to ask for help. Adopting the Growth Mindset, Ms. Dee’s classroom posted a video on Facebook this semester encouraging other kids in the community to challenge themselves and make a difference. She states that placing an emphasis on that specific learning process allows the children to understand how to teach themselves in the future.
“When you put a name to it, it makes a huge difference in their attitude when they do not learn something immediately,” said Ms. Dee. “They begin to not only work harder but understand the benefits of hard work.”