Developing a Growth Mindset at American Canyon Middle School

May 8, 2018

By Tania Urquidez, New Tech Network Social Media Intern

Growth mindset – the idea that intelligence can be developed – is critical to student success. Growth mindset encourages students to embrace challenges, persist in the face of setbacks, learn from feedback, and find inspiration from the success of others.

Jessica Beeman, a 6th grade teacher at American Canyon Middle School (ACMS) in Napa Valley, California, knew that growth mindset was something she wanted to focus on building in her classroom during her first year of teaching. She didn’t, however, realize that it would soon become the cultural norm for the entire school. Beeman and the other 6th grade science teachers at ACMS got together to discuss the importance of growth mindset and how they could work together to incorporate it into their classrooms.

The teachers decided to do more research and create mini-lessons on growth mindset to present to students for the following year. They decided the best way to incorporate growth mindset would be to create a 6th grade cross-curricular project to help students gain a deeper understanding of how to take ownership over their own learning and develop a growth mindset.

The students created posters for Back to School Night with a list of Smart Goals under each subject and an accompanying presentation to demonstrate their findings at student-led conferences.

According to Beeman, the growth mindset language the students learned was evident during their presentations as well as during site-wide learning walks where students were able to answer questions such as, “What are you learning?”, “How do you know when you’ve learned it?”, “What do you do when you get stuck?”

The students came out of the project having learned the importance of goal setting and, more importantly, that failure is okay, as long as you seek feedback and continue to work toward your goals. Because the presentations for the student-led conferences were created in advisory, more teachers were able to familiarize themselves with the ideas of growth mindset and created an even greater desire for teachers to learn more.

Through the project, students became experts and started spreading the word around campus, using posters designed specifically for individual teachers’ content area and classrooms. Because not all of the teachers knew about growth mindset, this became a professional development opportunity for everyone.

This project showed the staff at ACMS that growth mindset is important not only for students, but for teachers as well. Like students, teachers with a growth mindset take ownership over their learning. They’re excited about their curriculum and they aren’t afraid to collaborate and ask each other questions. In fact, the teachers are currently working on improvements for next year’s version of the project. They’re beginning to have more detailed conversations about what this looks like in their classroom so that they can learn from one another.

Agency, taking responsibility for learning by setting goals, persevering, reflecting, and practicing a growth mindset have now become some of ACMS’s core values. The development of staff with growth mindset is now a priority, and when hiring new staff, they seek to find people who demonstrate those traits in their past work experience and during the hiring process. Beeman believes that ACMS’s culture of growth mindset is growing rapidly and starting to become “infectious.”

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