“You don’t have to be bad to get better.” We all have room to learn and grow, regardless of our level of experience or expertise. For educators, adopting a growth mindset is essential to the complex work of teaching and learning. How does mindset impact instructional leadership?
According to Carol Dweck, a growth mindset is based on the belief that the intelligence you were born with is just a starting point, that intelligence can grow and be cultivated over time through your efforts and experiences. In the world of the growth mindset, effort is what makes you smart or talented. Failure is just a necessary precursor to learning and growth. People with a growth mindset don’t just seek challenge, they thrive on it. The bigger the challenge, the more they stretch. They seek constructive criticism because, unlike their fixed mindset counterparts, feedback is regarded as a conduit to growth rather than an indictment of their lack of ability. Leaders who operate with a growth mindset have a passion for learning. They value the learning experiences and persevere when the going gets tough because they believe this is the best way to cultivate and grow their abilities. No limits, no boundaries.
School leaders with a growth mindset are easy to spot in a professional development session. Much of the work we do with school leaders involves challenging prevailing beliefs and changing habits that have been ingrained for a very long time. Leaders who have a growth mindset are comfortable with the tension that is created when we are learning and practicing new skills. They understand that there are no quick fixes and that change is the result of repetition and practice over time. They respond to the challenges presented to them in training with optimism and enthusiasm. They see learning as an opportunity to improve their skills and enable them to better promote professional learning among their staff. Leaders with a growth mindset will implement the skills they’ve acquired to make changes that will improve the quality of teaching… even if they are initially met with resistance from teachers. Why? Because leaders with a growth mindset have the expectation that all teachers can learn, grow and improve practice. They provide opportunities for teachers to engage in rigorous work, and provide constructive feedback to them along the way. Growth mindset leaders seek out opportunities to talk to teachers about instruction, for they see this as a way for leaders themselves to learn and grow. Leaders who operate with a growth mindset have a contagious passion for learning that teachers quickly recognize. As a result, teachers in this environment are more willing to reflect, grow and “get better”.