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Could Parents Be Allies in Schools' Efforts to Build Growth Mindsets in Students?

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When it comes to forming views of the world and of themselves, there are few voices as influential to children as those of their parents and their schools. That's why it's important for schools to inform parents about their work in building students' non-cognitive skills, such as growth mindset, educators say.

In mindset work, schools seek to shift children from a fixed mindset—an understanding that people are born with fixed and unchangeable strengths and weaknesses—to a growth mindset—an understanding that the brain is capable of growth and change. Researchers say that growth mindsets help motivate students to redirect their efforts after failures, provide fuel for academic persistence, and lead to greater success in the classroom.

Without knowledge of the research behind such efforts, parents may unintentionally disrupt the work by communicating conflicting messages to their children. For example, a mother may console her daughter about poor performance on a math test by telling her that some people "just aren't math people." But armed with an understanding of schools' efforts and aims, parents can become allies in the work.

The concept of academic mindsets is pretty simple to communicate. I've seen a roomful of education reporters eagerly connect to the concept after a brief explanation from researchers. It's hard to resist personalizing it, remembering childhood perceptions of learning and failure.

New materials seek to give parents that same experience and, hopefully, to strengthen the ways they communicate with their children about their work at school. Stanford University's Project for Education Research That Scales, or PERTS, partnered with Raise the Bar this month to announce a "mini-course" on growth mindset for parents.

The materials include videos demonstrating "research-based parenting advice," questions to help families gauge their own mindsets, suggested activities, and parent-friendly descriptions of relevant academic studies, the organizations said in a blog post on the PERTS website. That blog post includes instructions for accessing the materials.

Does your school seek to boost students' engagement or social-emotional skills? How do you involve parents in that work?


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