ClassDojo and Stanford University’s Project for Education Research That Scales (PERTS) have created a teaching toolkit to incorporate the “growth mindset” into elementary and middle school classrooms. The toolkit includes a five-part animated video series that aims to engage students directly with the growth mindset.
Professor Carol Dweck played an integral part in the popularization of the idea of growth mindset, which centers on the concept that intelligence and abilities are not fixed but rather may grow with practice.
“Through research, we discovered that students’ mindsets were at the heart of these very different patterns in how students deal with setbacks and struggle,” Dweck said. “When students believed their intelligence was something they could develop, they took on challenges so that they can learn. When setbacks occurred, it wasn’t about something deep and permanent happening to them.”
Those with a fixed mindset, on the other hand, constantly worried about how they were perceived and how they measured up to their peers.
Dweck also studies the effect of growth mindset training on school performance. In one study, students were randomly assigned to a growth mindset workshop or a workshop on the brain. The students that received the growth mindset training often become more motivated and earned higher grades in school. Another study showed that students earned higher grades when adults praised their learning process rather than the students’ ability.
Dr. Dave Paunesku, executive director of Stanford PERTS, explained that there are many misconceptions of the growth mindset.
“The growth mindset is not just about effort and trying hard. People lose track about the fact that the strategies behind the growth are really important,” Paunesku said. “They also seem to forget the growth part — it’s the idea that you fundamentally improve your ability, not just that you can succeed at one thing. PERTS wants people to understand the nuance behind it.”
To combat these misconceptions and spread knowledge of the idea, PERTS has developed online modules to help teachers implement effective growth mindset practices. These suggestions aim to narrow the gap between what researchers have found to be successful exercises and the tools that teachers actually have.
“At a really high level, the goal of Stanford PERTS is to get more evidence-based practices into the hands of teachers,” Paunesku said.
ClassDojo, a communications platform, reached out to PERTS after discovering one of their online modules. The partnership is part of ClassDojo’s “Big Ideas” Initiative, which brings research into the classroom in simple and engaging ways. PERTS and ClassDojo collaborated on the scripts for the growth mindset videos and PERTS provided general feedback, but ultimately ClassDojo developed the videos.
Dan Greene, a doctoral student at Stanford’s Graduate School of Education, works with PERTS to lead the research portion of the project. Greene plans to gather survey data from teachers and students and link the results with the data that ClassDojo has found. The teachers and students will complete the survey over the next several weeks.
“When the partnership with ClassDojo began, we saw it as a good opportunity to learn more about the behaviors of teachers in classrooms that affect student’s mindsets,” Greene said.
In order to control for validity when teachers answer questions, Greene has ensured the questions are concrete, making it harder for teachers to be subjective about how effective their practices are. Some of the questions are designed to be tricky — for instance, the answer that may seem “right” is not necessarily correct.
“For example, giving students an opportunity to struggle is an important step to get a growth mindset, but we ask a question like: do you hate to see your students struggle? What kind of teacher would want to say they want their students to struggle?” Greene said. “But to a certain degree it could be valuable to give your students a chance to productively struggle with difficult material.”
While PERTS explores teacher practices through survey collection, ClassDojo has been spreading knowledge of their videos. The videos feature friendly monsters Mojo and Katie, who explore the growth mindset together.
The videos serve as an introduction to the fixed mindset idea, but teachers can also follow through on the concept through the lesson guides that ClassDojo provides with each video.
“We want teachers to think about the kind of norms they want to set in the classroom so that growth mindset is integrated in it,” Paunesku said.
Each video ends with a question, such as: What do you think? Can Mojo become smarter?
“This is a very effective tactic,” Dweck said. “It motivates students to endorse the message. Of course he can do it if he tries!”
The videos also explain the neuroscience behind the fixed and growth mindsets. Paunesku believes that this strategy increases the credibility of the message and helps students visualize the idea better.
“The videos are engaging and can be really focused. They have a high degree of fidelity: you can be sure that everyone gets the same message,” Paunesku said.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that ClassDojo is an “interactive software company” instead of a communications platform. It also misstated the “Big Ideas” Initiative mission as “fostering conversations between parents, teachers and students about student behavior” rather than bringing research into the classroom. The Daily regrets these errors.
Contact Pascale Elisabeth Eenkema van Dijk at pevd ‘at’ stanford.edu.