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The 180 Blog Feb 6, 2018

Nothing is Fixed – Changing Mindsets

Meredith Houff is a Professional Development Specialist. In this role, she supports the management, planning and facilitation of professional learning opportunities for Turnaround for Children’s New York City school-based staff. Meredith joined Turnaround in 2012 as an instructional coach, and worked with five New York City schools to facilitate professional learning opportunities for teachers and school staff.  In this post, Meredith reflects on her coaching at Young Voices Academy of the Bronx, specifically how she educated students and teachers about growth mindset.

I was first introduced to growth mindset becoming a part of Turnaround’s concept map in the fall of 2015 and I was a bit leery. Growth mindset, developed by psychologist Carol Dweck, is the belief that basic abilities and intelligence can be developed through hard work and dedication. A fixed mindset, by contrast, assumes intelligence or talent are fixed traits.

I couldn’t believe how quickly the children picked up on the concept of a growth mindset and ran with it! Students were motivated to select more challenging books and activities than they would have before. I watched a kindergartener use positive self-talk when selecting a book. He said to himself, “This will be hard, but that’s okay because it will grow my brain.”

Students in kindergarten through second grade shared what they were learning about the brain’s malleability and growth mindset with their families. They went home and explained it in their own words: “If you do something hard, something that frustrates you, it’s okay – your brain is growing!”

From fall 2016 to spring 2017, according to school survey data, students at Young Voices Academy had a 36-point increase in implicit theories of intelligence. Now, they believe that their intelligence can grow and their brains can change – and that is a gift I hope they hold for life!