Day 180 – Embracing a Growth Mindset for Learning

26 May

Another school year has ended, and so I want to report on the first day of the second semester and the last day of class. This report will make more sense if you know about my first day of class.

During the year, we talked a lot about learning from our mistakes. Students also had the opportunity to learn more about GRIT through the following problem solving points opportunity:

Angela Duckworth says that the key to success is GRIT. Watch her TED Talk here. Then determine how much GRIT you have here. Then email your instructor a reflection with a response to at least one of the following prompts:

I like …

I wish …

I wonder …

I will …

A reflection from CM during the fourth quarter follows:

I like that Angela Duckworth and Princeton (and you too, Mrs. Wilson) are speaking out and beginning to normalize this idea that intelligence is a fixed point, that we can’t change, is all wrong. Yes, it’s true we are not all rocket scientists- but should the people with less of an initial gift for learning have any less of an education? I’ve felt that in our school and our society there are a lot of limitations, including how high you rank in standardized tests, that influence how much you are pushed and expected to succeed. However, I don’t think that people who rank lower in testing scores should be shoved aside and given just the bare minimum. If the fear of failure was not so prevalent in the school system, maybe kids would believe that they can succeed after the initial failed attempt; that not just the ‘smart’ kids will be the ones to succeed.

I wish that someone had told me about this sooner, and that we were setting the goal at something more like GRIT, not just if you get the answer faster or easier than someone else. I’ve been in the smart track my whole life so I might sound out of line, but even I know that I won’t be a mathematician or the one to find a cure for cancer. No matter how hard I try, there is reality to remember, and though I’ve had encouraging parents and many very helpful teachers, I’ve still had the idea of my failure put into place. Can I wipe away that misconception that I was hardwired with a certain capacity for greatness? Even if I do, I feel that I just wasn’t born with a lot of determination. I’m sad to say my GRIT score was only 2.7 or so.

I wonder if this idea will die away or flourish in the new minds of the next generation. Before I came to your class, I’d always had teachers who would seem to forgive our wrong answers, but never one who said that, if used in the right way, it could actually help improve our overall smartness. I wonder how I could improve my measly 2.7 GRIT to something stronger. I wonder if I’ll ever find a motive to push me through, something to fuel my resilience.

I will work on not giving up; what better time to muddle through than high school? Opportunity to dump homework and just watch netflix abounds, but I will make a conscious effort to improve my GRIT and become a more responsible, diligent person.


I sent a Quick Poll on the first day of the second semester to find out whether any students had changed their thoughts on intelligence since the first day of school. And then I sent it again on the last day of class. The statements are from the first chapter of Mindset by Carol Dweck. Dweck suggests that those who agree with the first two statements tend towards a fixed mindset regarding their intelligence and those who agree with the last two statements tend towards a growth mindset regarding their intelligence.

One class of students marked the statements as shown below on the first day of class.

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 6.57.35 PM

The same class marked the statements as shown below halfway through the school year.

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 6.58.05 PM

And marked the statements as shown below on the last day of the school year.

Screen Shot 2014-05-26 at 7.52.18 AM

A few days later, there was a card on my desk from one of my 9th grade boys. I’ve included a picture so that you will really believe it, but I am going to type the text as well.

Screen Shot 2014-05-26 at 8.22.17 AM

Dear Mrs. Wilson

Your class this year was by far the most incredible learning experience I’ve ever had. Most classes up until this year I passed with flying colors, however yours challenged me in such a way that not only did I want to get an A, but I wanted to excel. You made me strive to learn more and keep expanding my intelligence. No other teacher has made me do that before. I’ve never really had to think during class, yet the first question you ever asked me made me think much harder than I thought it should. It was the “I believe I can’t change my intelligence” question and to be honest, I put no. I really didn’t think I could. I thought I was naturally smart. When you sent it again on your last day, I put no again, but that was a typo. Oops. I meant to put yes, and the only reason I knew that was because my personal level of intelligence skyrocketed during this year. Sure, my grades stayed average, but there was a hunger for knowledge you gave me that is something that will never leave me. If I had to take one thing from geometry, it’s not finding the area of a sector or the volume of a sphere. It’s my newly-found love for learning, and for that I am eternally grateful. Thank you. – BE

In a class of 32, I think moving from 12 students with a fixed mindset to only 3 students with a fixed mindset is an important result of the school year. But I know that it wouldn’t have happened without the tireless work of Jo Boaler, Carol Dweck, and Angela Duckworth to educate educators, parents, and students about how we think about learning.

So here’s to the end of another school year as the journey continues ….

1 Comment

Posted by on May 26, 2014 in Geometry, Student Reflection


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One response to “Day 180 – Embracing a Growth Mindset for Learning

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