Everyone Can Learn!

The mantra for the next section in the research-based book The Growth Mindset Coach is “Everyone can learn!” Teaching children about growth mindset and brain development can have positive effects on achievement and can be seen in as little as one 45-minute lesson.  

The Project for Education Research that Scales (PERTS) at Stanford University researched the impact of mindset training on student motivation and achievement and found that students performed at higher rates when students are taught that everyone is capable of achieving in all areas.

Think of a time you learned something new – what steps did you take in acquiring this knowledge? Learning takes place in layers, one step at a time. All of us had to learn to walk, right?! We build one skill on top of another, and persevere through the mistakes. Now think of a time you failed to master a skill. Did you know it is the mistakes that help the brain to grow, as it seeks out new solutions to a problem? Share these experiences with your children, and talk about a time they were successful in learning, and a time they were not. Our attitude towards our mistakes matters.

The authors of The Growth Mindset Coach stress the importance of modeling, in order for children to see what a good learning attitude looks like. A great way to do this is by showing what it doesn’t look like. The book includes the example of a teacher demonstrating this by throwing a temper tantrum when she couldn’t figure something out. She stomped, cried, and said, “This is too hard!” The children were shocked. Once the fit was over, the teacher asked if she could have handled the situation differently, which led to a great discussion on strategies for problem-solving. Some suggestions were to try and try again, ask for help, or look for a different solution.

Here are some suggestions to extend and promote growth mindset in the home, that emphasize effort over perfection:

*Encourage your child to take risks and tackle new challenges.

*Praise your child not for the ease with which he or she learns a      

          concept, but for the amount of effort put into learning it.

*Emphasize perseverance and effort in extracurricular activities. For

          example, “I’m proud of how much effort you put into that basketball

          game,” instead of, “I’m proud of how many points you scored in that

          basketball game.”

The article  “How to Not Talk to Your Kids” published in New York Magazine ten years ago highlights the research which shows the powerful effects of praising effort over “smarts.”  It is well worth the read.  

The next mantra is “My brain is like a muscle that grows!” New research reveals the brain’s ability to alter, grow, and make new connections, leading to long-lasting changes to the brain throughout a lifetime. The brain can actually rewire itself to adapt to new situations. We can help our students understand this amazing potential by teaching them about the structure and function of the brain, without needing to get too technical.

Your Fantastic Elastic Brain – Stretch It, Shape It by JoAnn Deak, Ph.D. is a great little book to use in teaching your children about the brain. The Growth Mindset Coach also contains lesson plans for teaching key concepts throughout the book. This chapter’s lesson plan has the children make playdoh models of the brain while introducing the functions of the cerebrum, cerebellum, prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, amygdala, and brainstem. The children then label the parts and give examples of how they use each one.

Think about the brain as a muscle – lifting weights and exercising muscles makes them stronger.  In the same way, when we exercise our brain, it gets stronger by making more connections within the brain. When we learn new things, our brains actually become heavier and more dense – in a good way!  

  • Julie Edmondson

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