Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Using goal setting to adjust student mindsets

Info graphic credit: http://mindmapblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/Mindsets.jpg

If your students resemble mine at all, when you ask them to set some goals for their classes, the majority of them will begin with something like, "I want to get an A in math" or "I want to earn a B in science."

Goals like those are indicative of a fixed mindset which seeks to validate intelligence by achieving noteworthy scores.  While there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to do well in a class, research suggests that a more growth oriented mindset has many advantages (see info graphic above).

So, as educators who work with students to set and attain goals, it helps to recognize these goals as opportunities to coach students to a better understanding of growth mindsets.

Here are some tips to help you use goal setting as a means to adjust mindsets.

1.  Recognize that making good grades IS important.  Do not try to convince the student that their goal to "make an A" is a "bad" goal.

2.  Focus the student on "what" she needs to do in order to achieve that result.  This will begin to introduce reality and potential roadblocks into the conversation, which is a good thing if you want to help the student.  Using the example of "getting an A" the components uncovered in the "what" conversation may include items such as high scores on tests and quizzes, turning in all homework on time and complete, attending extra help sessions, etc.

3.  After breaking down the goal into the various components, now work on "how" the student needs to approach each component.  This is where the student begins to understand the mental approach/attitude she must take in order to address each component.  The "how's" will spotlight one's effort, attention to detail, doing one's best with each opportunity presented, etc.

Now, look back on these steps.  You should see how a savvy teacher can use goal setting as a means to help students move from a fixed mindset about results to a growth mindset focused on effort and development.
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