- Despite the promotion of growth mindset in students, recent research indicates that such interventions have little effect on achievement — but a new study from the Stanford Graduate School of Education reveals that developing a growth mindset in math teachers may have greater effect, Education Week reports.
- The Stanford study focused on 40 5th-grade teachers from eight districts who participated in a three-year blended professional development program based on promoting growth mindset and a new more open-ended approach to teaching math, which resulted in higher math scores in students — particularly English language learners, girls and students from economically disadvantaged households.
- The program used in the study de-emphasized memorization of math facts in favor of an inquiry-based model that encourages collaboration on math problems with multiple ways to solve them, including hefty doses of professional development for teachers along the way.
Math tends to provoke strong emotional reactions in students, who usually either love it or hate it. However, research shows that these student attitudes toward math affect their performance. Fortunately, a recent survey indicates these attitudes may be improving, but for better or worse, the same attitudes tend to be influenced by those teaching the subject.
This is one reason another recent study tied the effect of teachers who pursued math education as a career with the success of students even into college. Their passion for the subject affected the trajectory of that student’s life. On the other hand, some math teachers fear math themselves, which can create math anxiety in students.
While a growth mindset has some social-emotional learning benefit in the way students approach education, recent students have not indicated that has much effect on the way they learn. However, it makes sense that a growth mindset in a teacher would have a greater effect on the way they teach. Having a growth mindset can help cut through bias and approach each student as having the capacity to learn. It also helps teachers see the value in mistakes and in a student’s attempt at thinking outside the box in order to solve problems
Administrators can help by seeing the importance of choosing math instructors with the right attitudes and a growth mindset toward math, even in the early grades. They can also offer professional development to math teachers to help them learn innovative approaches toward math instruction. Though several resources are available, Stanford University has a series of videos on math instruction that can help, as well.