National Center on Scaling Up Effective Schools

New paper on teacher sensemaking about growth mindset

Posted by on Wednesday, May 1, 2019 in News.

NCSU scholars Susan Kemper Patrick and Ela Joshi released a new paper called, “Set in Stone” or “Willing to Grow”? Teacher sensemaking during a growth mindset initiative, published in the journal Teaching and Teacher Education. This paper examines how teachers in three urban high schools define and explain growth and fixed mindsets. Drawing on sensemaking perspectives, they find that teachers’ prior beliefs about learning and learners appear to influence how they engage with mindsets as part of a larger, teacher-driven improvement initiative.

Overall, the 120 interviewed teachers in their sample expressed support for the growth mindset initiative but most teachers only had limited opportunities to engage in training or discussion about mindsets and how they influence their classroom practice. In particular, they find evidence of what Carol Dweck has called “false growth mindset” in which the tenets of each mindset can be oversimplified to connote positive and negative traits and some teachers assume that they’re already “doing” growth mindset. They also highlight common misconceptions among the interviewed teachers in their sample. Most notably, they find that some teachers misinterpret fixed mindset as a characteristic of low-performing, low-income, or immigrant students. They argue that such misinterpretation and oversimplification diminishes the power of growth mindset as a tool to support student learning.

Drawing on prior work on sensemaking, they conclude that teachers may not feel personally implicated in the mindset initiative.They highlight one promising practice that emerged from one of the schools in their sample, in which teachers’ training explicitly focused on assessing and reflecting on their own mindset rather than the mindsets of students. They encourage researchers and practitioners engaging in growth mindset initiatives (and other social-emotional interventions) to consider how to deeply engage teachers.

The full paper can be found here.

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