Failure & Growth Mindset
As educators, the counselors at RMS are committed to inspiring a love of learning in all of our students. We believe that all students can succeed, and we support the 6th grade curriculum on neuroplasticity as a way of understanding how taking on challenging tasks actually increases student learning capabilities. It is our hope that achievement in school will come from a student’s desire to pursue interests, and also through independent inquiry-- with support from parents, teachers, and all members of the RMS community. Grades and test scores are absolutely part of middle school, but we hope that the desire to be successful in middle school will be intrinsic, and that extrinsic motivators take a backseat (along with anxiety, fear of failure, and comparison to other students). Instead, we focus on mastery of concepts, and we encourage students to learn from mistakes that they will inevitably make.
We recognize that the greatest learning opportunities occur when students are challenged through a rigorous academic program and when they are interested, empowered, and engaged in their learning. Students are encouraged to pursue individual interests through problem-based learning tasks, as well as through the choices of elective classes. We firmly believe that it is possible to build self-esteem in students while still allowing them to fail. Moreover, embracing occasional academic failure actually helps students manage frustration and develops students who are “gritty” -- willing to persevere, stay motivated, and put forth effort when the going gets tough. A body of research in the area of growth mindset suggests just this! Stanford Psychologist, Carol Dweck, relates the brain to a muscle, and described how taking on challenging tasks strengthened the brain’s capabilities. We aim to support all students with this concept, both through the lifeskills we teach in 7th grade guidance class and through individual support plans.
Fostering a climate of empathy in a classroom and at home is critical to supporting a growth mindset. How we give praise is subtle, but important to building a growth mindset. Here is an example of two ways of giving feedback, adapted from Mindset in the Classroom (Ricci, M., 2017):
|Do NOT Say||Do Say|
|You are really athletic!||You work really hard and pay attention when you are on that field!|
|You are so smart!||You work hard in school and it shows!|
|Your drawing is wonderful; you are my little artist!||I can see you have been practicing your drawing; what a great improvement!|
|You always get good grades; that makes me happy!||When you put forth effort, it really shows in your grades. You should be so proud of yourself. We are proud of you!|