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Helping Struggling Students Build a Growth Mindset

Researchers and teacher educators Donna Wilson and Marcus Conyers have found that a gift many effective educators give struggling students is a practical and optimistic mindset coupled with strategies that help them learn successfully. In this article for Edutopia, Wilson and Conyers offer strategies for helping students who find school difficult maintain a positive mindset as they persist in the sometimes hard work required for learning.

Encouraging Optimism About Learning

These teaching strategies help reinforce how useful it can be to develop a state of practical optimism:

  • Model practical optimism and point out examples of this approach in action; for example, say, “We knew this would be a tough project, but we stuck with it and worked hard. Just look at what we’ve accomplished!”
  • Share examples of how you have overcome learning obstacles. It’s helpful for struggling students to realize that everyone occasionally faces learning challenges.
  • Share stories that illustrate the benefits of practical optimism.
  • Maintain a positive learning atmosphere by posing questions such as “What was the best thing that happened today?”

Teaching Students to Learn More Effectively

When struggling students learn how to “drive their brains” through the use of cognitive strategies, they’re more likely to be able to learn and think at higher levels. Teachers often tell us they need strategies for helping students learn how to increase their attention. Edutopia’s “Resources on Learning and the Brain” features other easy-to-use strategies for assisting students to learn more effectively.

Maintaining Success Files

A success file is a continually updated collection that provides ready evidence to help students internalize and remember their learning successes. Here is one way to use this strategy:

  • Give every student a folder to use as a success file.
  • Ask students to write the word success on their file and/or draw a picture that represents success for them.
  • Every day, when possible, ask students to add to their folders examples of successful learning, such as tasks completed, examples of learning gains, and assignments that support their personal definitions of success.
  • At the start of each school day or class, remind students to look through their success file. The more students can reconnect to their previous achievements, the more positive their mindsets can become and the more successful they’ll be in the long run.

Excerpted from “Helping Struggling Students Build a Growth Mindset” in Edutopia. Read the full article for moer details and additional strategies.

Source: Edutopia | Helping Struggling Students Build a Growth Mindset, | © 2021 George Lucas Educational Foundation