3 Ways Ed-Tech Can Cultivate a Growth Mindset

Ever since Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck’s Mindset: The New Psychology of Success came out in 2006, terms like fixed and growth mindsets have become staple buzzwords in education. However, according to Dweck, parents and teachers often misuse growth mindset research, failing to instill the mentality most conducive to students’ success.

Dweck explains how a growth mindset has been conflated with another buzzword: grit. Encouragement to simply try harder isn’t productive, according to Dweck. What’s essential is cultivating problem solving and critical analysis skills that help students to think smarter and then passionately capitalize on those abilities.

In this sense, cultivating a growth mindset involves more than a shift in attitude; it involves developing the right tools and strategies to make that shift tenable for any teacher.  This is where I think ed-tech can play a valuable role in changing K-12 students’ attitude toward education (and thereby their distal outcomes).  In this article, I’ll discuss three points of entry that would be critical in making this change:

Scrap GPA

Is it just me, or does GPA seem a little antiquated given the in-depth data we could potentially draw upon when evaluating students?  Because an A doesn’t mean the same thing from school to school, let alone region to region, universities often need some very complicated leveling metric to compare applicants. Given that the Common Core is based on skills acquired, couldn’t evaluation mirror those standards?  And would we need standardized testing if evaluation and instruction became the feedback loop they should be?

Tap Into Actionable Data

From my experience in test prep, the thing that differentiates a great tutor from a good tutor is the ability to identify exactly what is bothering a student about any given problem. It’s a level of understanding that only comes with thousands of hours of experience, and this capacity can accelerate learning in ways that might seem impossible in a classroom of 25 or more students. With technology, we have the potential to aggregate user experience in ways that can expedite insights that are specific and actionable, empowering teachers to cut to the chase when working with students who often lack the conceptual context to articulate what’s stumping them in the first place.

Rethink Student Feedback

In beta testing SmartyReader, we learned firsthand the importance of the way in which students receive feedback on their performance.  Initially, students didn’t receive feedback until the end of the critical reading and writing exercises we’ve termed Smarticles. Now students get immediate feedback, and we’ve switched from displaying the percent correct on each Smarticle to displaying points achieved based on the difficulty of the questions answered correctly. This small change inspired a significant boost in participation and a shift in mindset to tackling more challenging Smarticles.


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