In Dr. Carol Dweck’s book, MINDSET, she states, “Whether we’re talking about Darwin or students, important achievements require a clear focus, all-out effort, and a bottomless trunk full of strategies. Plus allies in learning. This is what the growth mindset gives people, and that’s why it helps their abilities grow and bear fruit.”
Let’s take a look at her points here and how they align with some of the initiatives that we have been focusing on the past two years.
- “A clear focus” – By moving to a standards-based learning environment, the learning targets for each subject area at each grade level are clearly advertised to all stakeholders. It’s no longer just the teacher that knows what the objectives are; now the student and the family know as well. The standards for each subject area are stated up front; the tools used, as well as our communications, continuously remind us of the standards that are currently being addressed. Our Personal Learning Plans, as well, help to focus our efforts on the individual needs of each student.
- “All-out effort” – Because we believe that effort is such a crucial ingredient in a student’s success, we no longer hide a student’s effort grade in amongst all of the other grades in a given subject area. Now we’ve given Effort its own place in the gradebook and on the report card, along with its own rubric delineating levels of performance in that area. Additionally, the whole structure of standards-based learning and assessment is designed to motivate students to give forth maximum effort, since they now know the learning targets and the steps required to get there.
- “A bottomless trunk full of strategies” – First, the rubrics contain descriptors that delineate levels of performance. If a student is Below Expectations or Approaching Expectations or Meeting Expectations, s/he can look at the rubric and see what concept they need to learn or skill they need to acquire in order to get to the next level. Second, we provide a variety of professional development experiences for our teachers – before, during, and after the school year. Our Meritas Teachers College provides Forums several times a year that allow some of our teachers to visit our sister schools and learn alongside their colleagues from across the Meritas system, as well as online courses that can be accessed from home. On site, we have weekly sessions on Wednesday afternoons dedicated to teacher growth and collaboration, as well as at least ten full-day trainings throughout the school year. The purpose of all these experiences is to grow teacher practice and increase the number of tools in their toolbox.
- “Allies in learning” – Last year we started talking about our “3 Cs”: Community, Collaboration, Communication. By proactively communicating with you and making you an integral part of what we do here at HIS to support children, we regard each other and all stakeholders as essential allies in the vital task of helping our students learn and grow. Again, the PLP process serves as one example of how we elicit your input to help differentiate for each child’s strengths and areas of need.
The Growth Mindset is what we want to instill in each of our students. They develop this mindset through frequent encouragement and modeling from all the important adults in their lives. They develop this mindset when they learn to look at failure as simply another learning opportunity. They develop this mindset by understanding that only through continuous effort on their part does productive growth and increased achievement occur.
Lower School Principal