Growth Mindset and Collaborative Response

I was fortunate enough several years ago to attend a six day Leveled Literacy Intervention training opportunity. The learning there was very powerful and I especially loved the components of progress monitoring and goal setting. Through this intervention, the way the teacher views students comes from a growth based perspective. As teachers reflect on a student as a reader, they notice what the student has accomplished on their learning journey, for example, the student may be using multiple sources of information as they read text, or monitoring their comprehension as they read. It is only after the teacher notices what the student is doing well, that next steps for the child as a reader are considered. This perspective focuses on continuity of student growth and development.

In contrast, if the teacher noticed only that the student was below grade level benchmark, their response would be very different. One response might be to put the child in an intervention group. By responding to a need before examining what a student has already accomplished and carefully considering next steps, we may be neglecting to precisely differentiate our instruction. By looking at what is missing we may see a big target of lacking skills instead of incremental steps to reach a bigger goal.

Carol Dweck (2015) asks us to remind our students that learning happens step by step and to view their understanding through a lens of growth. Teachers and leaders can mirror this. Here are a couple of examples. When we are examining a student assessment piece on a rubric, we can begin by looking at the beginning descriptors first and then progress to the excellence descriptors as opposed to working our way down. When we are looking at progress in math, do we notice that a student is not achieving grade level expectations or do we break it down further and notice what the student has already accomplished in terms of math development and guide them with incremental and appropriate next steps to reach success at grade level?

Consider these two possibilities for successful student outcomes:

  1. Mr. Littlechild is a grade 2 teacher who has a great reputation and his students usually achieve well. He has a couple of students who are struggling with the concepts of 2 digit addition. He tries many strategies and finally arrives at the idea of “they are just not ready” and teaches them the traditional algorithm. He is confident that these students can now add 2 digit numbers but is fairly sure they will continue to struggle in math in years to come.
  2. Mr. Jakert is a grade 2 teacher and is looking forward to his team’s collaboration time which in his school is embedded in the timetable. He has a student who is still working towards understanding 2 digit addition. He explores a bit further and realizes that the student can conceptually subitize numbers to 10 and is working on conceptual subitizing numbers to 20. He is sure that when this is developed further, the student will be able to mentally bridge tens more easily but is not sure how to support the child. During his collaborative team meeting, Mr. Jakerts’ grade team partners also identify students who would benefit from developing their skills in 2 digit addition. Together they decide that they will be able to create a small group for further work in this area. They collect lessons and activities for the group and decide that Mr. Jakert will work with the group for 10-15 minutes during their common math block. The teachers phone the families of the children in the group to explain that they are supporting the children in their growth towards mastery of 2 digit addition and send home a game for practice.

To view a sample of this type of meeting in action, access the Jigsaw Learning Collaborative Team Meeting playlist.

The second scenario addresses student needs through a lens of growth. Mr. Jakert was able to precisely target his instruction by considering growth along a continuum. In addition, the collaborative conversation was leveraged to further support additional students with a common need. Two key aspects of growth mindset are trying new strategies and seeking input from others (Dweck, 2015). If we are truly embracing growth mindset for ourselves and our students, then as well as looking at student growth in an incremental way, we are directed towards collaboration with colleagues. In the second example, collaboration is combined with targeted assessment, and team teachers increase their expertise through collaborative conversation and planning. More students were able to be supported through using the collaborative structure of a common math block. When teachers embrace growth mindset in their professional practice as well as in their instruction, all students benefit. How has growth mindset influenced your practice or even more impactful, the practice of your team?

Author: Kathleen Robertson

Dweck, C. (2015). Carol Dweck revisits the growth mindset. Education Week, 35(5), 20-24. Retrieved from: