Growth Mindset or Fixed Mindset?

How can we improve our schools?

We’ve studied that question for decades at the International Center for Leadership in Education, and we believe we’ve found the answer.

Great schools embrace a growth mindset philosophy—you may have heard me discuss this before. But today, most schools operate with a fixed mindset philosophy. Leaders in these schools base their decisions on what already exists. They weigh whether or not they can, or are willing to, change anything that is now in place.

The challenge here is that most people support change—in theory—until it impacts them personally. Then watch out! No need to change anything, thank you! What’s going to happen to me?
Nothing much changes in a fixed mindset school.

The World Beyond School
Schools that have a growth mindset, a concept developed by psychologist Carol Dweck, operate differently. First and foremost, they focus on getting their students ready for the world after school. They don’t obsess about the next test, the next grade or even the next level of education.

Instead, they try to envision what society and the workplace will look like in three to five years. Then they build their academic programs back from that point. They examine how technology, information systems and the global economy in general will change what employers expect graduates to know and do.

Create a Culture to Support Change
These successful schools take a systematic approach to change. First of all, they create a culture–at all levels–that supports change. They ask questions: What is your vision for students? What are your core values? What are your goals? How will you achieve them? What do you believe about student learning and achievement?

You’ve heard this from me again and again: Culture trumps strategy. Until you can articulate a vision, you’ll get nowhere. Until you create a positive culture for change, any strategy you employ ultimately will fail. That’s the roadmap successful schools use. It’s not easy. It takes time. But it will pay off for students in the long run. And that’s what it’s all about.


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