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Teaching and Teacher Education 77 (2019) 204e213
Contents lists avai
Teaching and Teacher Education
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/tate
In search of a growth mindset pedagogy: A case study of one teacher's classroom practices in a Finnish elementary school
Inkeri Rissanen a, *, Elina Kuusisto b, c, d, Moona Tuominen d, Kirsi Tirri d, e
a Faculty of Education, University of Tampere, Åkerlundinkatu 5, FI-33014, Tampere, Finland b Department of Education, University of Humanistic Studies, Kromme Nieuwegracht 29, 3512 HD, Utrecht, the Netherlands c School of Educational Sciences, Tallinn University, Narva Road 25, 10120, Tallinn, Estonia d Department of Education, University of Helsinki, P.O. Box 9, 00014, Finland e Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, Fabianinkatu 24 (P.O. Box 4), 00014, University of Helsinki, Finland
h i g h l i g h t s
� Core features of growth mindset pedagogy: process focus, mastery orientation, persistence, individualized student support. � Growth mindset pedagogy includes the recognition and countering of students' fixed mindset behaviors. � Growth mindset pedagogy is hampered by relying on the motivating power of success. � Trait-focused pedagogy is sometimes implemented only for academically competent students. � Teachers must develop understanding of academically competent students as fragile students in need of support.
a r t i c l e i n f o
Article history: Received 11 May 2018 Received in revised form 21 August 2018 Accepted 2 October 2018 Available online 17 October 2018
Keywords: Growth mindset pedagogy Growth mindset Fixed mindset Case study Stimulated recall interview Finland
* Corresponding author. E-mail addresses: [email protected] (I. R
(E. Kuusisto), [email protected] (M. Tuo (K. Tirri).
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2018.10.002 0742-051X/© 2018 The Authors. Published by Elsevier
a b s t r a c t
In this article we take up the two-fold task of creating a framework for a growth mindset pedagogy on the basis of our previous studies and exploring the critical points of this pedagogy in the classroom of a mixed-mindset teacher. The data include classroom observations and stimulated recall interviews. The results show how a teacher who is socialized into the Finnish educational system pursues core features of growth mindset pedagogy, despite not having a dominant growth mindset herself. However, we identify critical points in her practices, which suggest that teaching the theory of mindset in teacher education is needed. © 2018 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND
Carol Dweck's (2000, 2006) theory of mindsets deals with im- plicit beliefs that individuals hold about basic human qualities. People with a growth mindset (also called incremental theory) believe that intelligence, personality, and abilities can be devel- oped. People with a fixed mindset (also called entity theory) believe that these basic qualities are static and unalterable. People have
Ltd. This is an open access article u
general tendencies toward one mindset or the other, but it is also common to have different mindsets in various domains of the self and others (e.g., intelligence, personality, giftedness) (Kuusisto, Laine, & Tirri, 2017; Molden & Dweck, 2006). Different mindsets provide an explanation for why students with equal abilities in the same situation have different achievement goals and behavioral patterns and thus exhibit differences in learning processes and outcomes (Dweck & Leggett, 1988). Students with a fixed mindset emphasize performance goals (“looking smart,” “proving their abilities”) and tend to avoid challenges, whereas students with a growth mindset emphasize learning goals (“becoming smart,” “improving abilities”), appreciation of effort, and understanding failures as learning opportunities (Dweck & Leggett,1988; Mangels,
nder the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).
I. Rissanen et al. / Teaching and Teacher Education 77 (2019) 204e213 205
Butterfield, Lamb, Good, & Dweck, 2006). Students with a growth mindset have been found to have higher achievements during challenging school transitions, and these students' completion rates in demanding school courses are greater (Blackwell, Trzesniewski, & Dweck, 2007; Yeager & Dweck, 2012).
Mindsets are relatively stable, but they can also be altered by educational interventions. Even brief interventions have had long- lasting effects on students' motivation and achievement. The main feature of such interventions has been to teach students about the neuroplasticity of the brain and its potential to change and reor- ganize whenever people learn and practice new ways of thinking (Blackwell et al., 2007; Dweck, 2012; Paunesku, 2013; Rattan, Good, & Dweck, 2012; Yeager & Dweck, 2012; Yeager & Walton, 2011). It has also been found that teachers play a critically important role in supporting these classroom interventions (Schmidt, Shumow, & Kackar-Cam, 2015). Furthermore, teachers' perceptions of the causes of students' behavior and particularly their implicit beliefs about intelligence powerfully shape their own behaviors and in- teractions with students (Georgiou, Christou, Stavrinides, & Panaoura, 2002; Rattan et al., 2012; Rissanen, Kuusisto, Hanhim€aki, & Tirri, 2018a,b; Ronkainen, Kuusisto, & Tirri, 2018). With subtle cues delivered through the language they use, teachers can shape students' views of their own abilities and influence their motivation and achievements (Cimpian, Arce, Markman, & Dweck, 2007; see also; Schmidt et al., 2015). Teachers with an entity theory more often praise their students' qualities (Jonsson & Beach, 2012; Rissanen et al., 2018a) or comfort students for their limited ability when they are failing (Rattan et al., 2012), which may have negative effects on student perseverance and motivation (Mueller & Dweck, 1998). Furthermore, teachers' mindsets about intelligence predict their views of their own responsibility for student performance: teachers with fixed views of student ability see themselves as being less responsible for students’ academic performance (Patterson, Kravchenko, Chen-Bouk, & Kelley, 2016) and may be less respon- sive to pedagogical education (Rissanen et al., 2018a).
However, research has mainly focused on interventions, which are often conducted by researchers, while the actualization of teachers' mindsets in the classroom and teachers' everyday peda- gogical practices in general, which continuously shape students' mindsets, remain understudied. In three exploratory case studies that included classroom observations and stimulated recall in- terviews with a total of six teachers, we have previously examined how teachers with a general tendency toward either a fixed or a growth mindset make sense of their students' behavior, learning, and achievements and how this meaning-making influences the teachers' understanding of the teaching-studying-learning process and their classroom practices in general (Rissanen et al., 2018a; Ronkainen et al., 2018), and specifically with respect to moral ed- ucation (Rissanen et al., 2018b). These studies give evidence of the implications of teachers' mindsets to their pedagogical practices, and, along with studies that depict teachers' role in shaping mindsets (e.g., Jonsson & Beach, 2012; Rattan et al., 2012; Schmidt et al., 2015), they show the need to strengthen connections be- tween the research on mindsets and the fields of teaching and teacher education. There have been no systematic efforts to delineate the core tenets of what could be called a growth mindset pedagogy e pedagogy that is likely to cultivate a growth mindset in students and is associated with the teacher's own growth mindset.
Thus, in this article we take up a two-fold task. First, on the basis of our previous studies, we create a framework for a growth mindset pedagogy in basic education, which gathers together key features of classroom practices associated with a teacher's incre- mental meaning system (a network of beliefs connected to growth mindset; e.g., Plaks, Levy, & Dweck, 2009). Second, we try to develop the framework further by finding answers to unresolved
questions through a case study. Even though the results of our previous case studies indicate a link between teachers' dominant growth mindset and certain features in their pedagogical thinking and practices, these results have also raised questions: to what extent can a growth mindset pedagogy be regarded as the practice of a single teacher and dependent on the teacher's own mindset, and to what extent does it stem from the larger educational system that relies on the core features of growth mindset pedagogy? Furthermore, is socialization into this educational system in teacher education sufficient for promoting a growth mindset pedagogy, or are there some critical points that would require teachers to become familiar with the theory of mindsets and its pedagogical implications? In order to explore these issues, we present Finland as a case example of an educational system which leans toward a growth mindset pedagogy, and we show the results of a case study of a Finnish teacher who is fully socialized into the Finnish educational system, but does not herself have a dominant growth mindset.
2. Growth mindset pedagogy
2.1. Core features of a growth mindset pedagogy based on process- focused pedagogical thinking
A growth mindset is commonly associated with process focus, which means that behavior is explained by means of contextual factors and psychological forces. People with a fixed mindset are more trait-focused and tend to interpret behavior in terms of per- sonality traits and abilities (Chiu, Hong, & Dweck, 1997; Molden, Plaks, & Dweck, 2006; Plaks et al., 2009). Our previous studies (Rissanen et al., 2018a,b; Ronkainen et al., 2018) revealed how teachers with a growth mindset rely strongly on process-focused pedagogical thinking. This means they regard emotional processes, learning strategies, and contextual factors as the main indicators of students’ behavior, learning, and achievements and try to influence these factors instead of seeking explanations in fixed abilities. The core features of a growth mindset pedagogy, which we have identified in natural classroom settings, can be traced to the process-focused pedagogical thinking of teachers (see Table 1).
Supporting student's individual processes (see Table 1) is important for a teacher who does not seek reasons for students' successes and failures in their fixed qualities, but rather un- derstands that the individual cocktail of psychological processes, contextual factors, and learning strategies influences a student's learning process and may create barriers to motivation and learning; identifying these barriers and helping students to over- come them is a teacher's job. Teachers with a growth mindset are less likely to make quick, stereotypical judgments about students' talents or moral character than teachers with a fixed mindset, and they spend more time in one-on-one interactions with students in order to get to know them and give them individualized support. Furthermore, differentiation becomes the basis of pedagogical practice in a growth mindset pedagogy.
Process-focused pedagogy implies promoting a mastery orien- tation in the classroom (see Table 1), where progress and learning goals are emphasized and performance or achievements are not deemed as relevant. This means, for instance, that the emphasis is strongly on formative instead of summative assessment. Students are not encouraged to compete and compare their achievements with other students, but rather to analyze their own progress and learning. We found that teachers with a dominant fixed mindset tend to start custom-tailoring their goals and teaching content to the students' talents; furthermore, such teachers consider their primary aims as a teacher to be evaluating students’ achievements fairly. In the domain of moral education, teachers with a fixed
Table 1 Core features of growth mindset pedagogy in basic education (on the basis of Rissanen et al., 2018a,b; Ronkainen et al., 2018).
Growth mindset pedagogy in basic education is pedagogy that is likely to cultivate a growth mindset in students and is associated with the teacher's own growth mindset and process-focused pedagogical thinking. Supporting student's individual learning processes � Avoiding quick, stereotypical judgments of students � Frequent one-on-one interactions with students � Learning about individual student's barriers to learning and helping students overcome them � Differentiation as the basis of pedagogical practice Promoting mastery orientation � Fostering learning goals � Emphasis on formative assessment � Avoiding comparisons to other students Persistence � Not giving up on students and leaving no room for helpless behavior patterns � Not protecting students from challenges � Honest critical feedback in the form of “not yet” Fostering students' process-focused thinking � Praising courage, strategies, and effort � Teaching the positive role of failures, mistakes, and challenges in learning � Fostering students' incremental beliefs and situational attributions � Teaching learning strategies and emphasizing learning-to-learn goals
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mindset were focused on achieving justice through punishments, while teachers with a growth mindset endeavored to promote moral growth in a more holistic manner.
Another thing we have found to be common among teachers with a dominant growth mindset is persistence (see Table 1). This means that a teacher is rather strict and does not give up on stu- dents or leave room for helpless behavior patterns, but expects good behavior and tirelessly demands that students put effort into studying. Persistent teachers have a firm belief in a teacher's power to influence students' studying-learning processes and in devel- oping students' moral character. In our observations, fixed mindset teachers sometimes seemed to protect students (especially the ones they regard “weak”) from challenges and all kinds of criticism, and to use comforting feedback (see also Rattan et al., 2012), but teachers with a growth mindset more courageously give guidance through honest critical feedback e for instance, by using the words “not yet”, which leaves space and gives hope for improvement and motivation to continue (Ronkainen et al., 2018).
Central to the concept of growth mindset pedagogy is that such teaching promotes a growth mindset. Students' growth mindset and appreciation of persistence and effort correlates with not being thrown by failure, but rather in seeing failures as opportunities for learning (Dweck, 2000, 2006, 2010; Blackwell et al., 2007; Molden & Dweck, 2006). We have found that teachers with a growth mindset and a tendency to engage in process-focused pedagogical thinking are also likely to foster students' process-focused thinking (see Table 1) associated with a growth mindset. A key factor here is the kind of student feedback such teachers provide: they tend to praise courage, strategies, and effort instead of achievements and personal qualities. By emphasizing learning-to-learn goals and teaching learning strategies, growth mindset teachers help stu- dents, both explicitly and implicitly, to find reasons for their diffi- culties outside their personal qualities and thereby foster incremental beliefs. They help students cope with mistakes and teach how failures and challenges play roles as learning opportu- nities. We did not measure student outcomes, but Schmidt et al. (2015) have shown how these kinds of “growth mindset mes- sages” together with a teacher's process-focused practices support students' growth mindset and are linked with students' better ac- ademic achievement in the long term.
2.2. Growth mindset pedagogy in the Finnish educational system
There are many features in the Finnish educational system that
can be regarded as important enablers of growth mindset peda- gogy. In general, the goal of education, as described in the current National core curriculum for basic education (Finnish National Agency of Education, 2014), is to educate responsible citizens who are able to realize their fullest potential; the aims of learning- to-learn are strongly emphasized. A mastery-oriented atmosphere and implementation of learning goals instead of achievement goals are enabled by the minor role given standardized testing and externally determined learning standards (Finnish National Agency of Education, 2014). Further, the educational system is based on trusting the professionality and autonomy of teachers (Tirri, 2014). Assessment for learning e assessment that guides and promotes learning e is highlighted in the new national core curriculum: “In all grades, assessment during the studies mainly consists of guid- ance of learning through feedback. Its key objective is to guide and encourage studies, support learning and promote the skills of self- assessment and peer assessment” (Finnish National Agency of Education, 2014, p. 86).
Furthermore, since the 1970s, the main principle of Finnish education has been to maintain equality, which is manifested in the care given to the weakest students, such as children with learning difficulties (Tirri & Kuusisto, 2013; Uljens & Nyman, 2013). Teachers are expected to tailor their teaching practices in a way that con- siders students’ individual characteristics, needs, and interests. The development of the child as a whole is emphasized, and individu- ally personalized student support is provided by multi-professional teams. However, this kind of growth mindset pedagogy has not been applied to gifted students, for whom opportunities to learn and develop by doing challenging tasks have been almost sys- tematically neglected. In Finland, gifted education has depended on individual teachers, since neither the educational system nor teacher education programs have addressed the topic (Laine, Kuusisto, & Tirri, 2016; Laine & Tirri, 2016). Still, it is important to point out that, for the first time in the history of Finnish curricula, the curriculum published in 2014 mentions talented students and acknowledges their learning needs (Finnish National Agency of Education, 2014). It can be stated that, traditionally, a Finnish growth mindset pedagogy has been built up especially for sup- porting the growth and development of students with learning difficulties, but the current development is gradually broadening the scope to include gifted and talented learners as well.
The current national core curriculum, in describing the concept of learning, emphasizes the importance of students' self-image, self-efficacy, and self-esteem in learning processes and in
I. Rissanen et al. / Teaching and Teacher Education 77 (2019) 204e213 207
motivation. It states that students' trust in their potential should be reinforced through positive and realistic feedback (Finnish National Agency of Education, 2014). A growth mindset pedagogy also rec- ognizes the importance of students' ideas about themselves as learners. However, in contrast to the emphasis in the Finnish cur- riculum on students' trust in their own potential, research on mindsets indicates that students’ incremental beliefs e trust in the malleability of their qualities e is the basis for motivation that endures through setbacks and failures (Yeager & Dweck, 2012).
According to quantitative studies, a growth mindset is more typical of Finnish teachers than is a fixed mindset, as measured by Dweck's scale (Laine et al., 2016; Laine & Tirri, 2016), similar to teachers in the United States (Gutshall, 2013, 2014). However, there are also reasons to suspect that Dweck's instrument provides overly positive results, since incremental views were not evident in Finnish teachers' open definitions of giftedness (Laine et al., 2016). Previously, Finnish teachers have also been found to support “the theory of natural giftedness,” which holds that intelligence is a fixed capacity (R€aty & Snellman, 1998). Furthermore, while Finnish teachers seem to regard the academic competence of poorly achieving students as malleable, they hold more fixed views of the competence stability of high achievers (Rissanen et al., 2018a; K€arkk€ainen & R€aty, 2010). In order to develop agendas for teacher education programs, more in-depth qualitative studies are needed to increase understanding of the domains in which teachers typi- cally hold entity or incremental beliefs and to determine how these beliefs influence their pedagogical thinking and practices.
3. Data and methods
3.1. Study design
The data collected for this study are part of a larger research project at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies at the Uni- versity of Helsinki. The Copernicus Project aims at changing learning mindsets among students, teachers, and parents, and project members collect psychological, educational, and neuro- scientific evidence for these changes. The methods include large quantitative surveys, interviews, and observations in the classroom as well as interventions and brain measurements. We also collect multiple-case studies from teachers at different grade levels to determine how teachers with different mindsets implement growth mindset pedagogy in their classroom. The aim is to recog- nize the current situation, identify the pre-intervention practices of teachers, and develop growth mindset pedagogy for future in- terventions in schools and for teacher education programs. Thus far, the research conducted in the project has shown evidence of the implications of teachers' mindsets for their pedagogical practices (as described above), but it has also led us to hypothesize that some core features of growth mindset pedagogy could be rooted in the educational system in a way that teachers without a dominant growth mindset are likely to pursue. We have observed teachers with particularly strong dominant fixed or growth mindsets, yet more data are needed on the actualization of growth mindset pedagogy in the practices of teachers who do not hold either a strong growth or fixed mindset. We are interested in determining the critical points of growth mindset pedagogy that would demand focused teacher education interventions in an educational system that generally leans on process-focused pedagogy. The present case study explored the pedagogical thinking and practices of one Finnish class teacher, Anne (a pseudonym). By observing Anne, we were able to examine what might be missing from otherwise good and effective pedagogy in the absence of the teacher's growth mindset and knowledge of the mindset phenomenon; in other words, what would be the added value of a growth mindset
pedagogy? The research questions for the study are the following:
1. How is a growth mindset pedagogy actualized in Anne's peda- gogical thinking and practice?
2. What are the critical points of Anne's pedagogical thinking and practice? Where are her entity beliefs communicated to the students or where does she otherwise fail to promote a growth mindset in her students?
3.2. Teacher observed in this study
Anne is a class teacher. In Finland, at the level of basic education (grades 1 to 6), the teaching of all subjects is generally given by a single class teacher. As will be shown below, Anne is also a teacher educator herself and supervises practicing student teachers in her classroom. She can therefore be regarded as a teacher who is ex- pected to represent the ideals of the Finnish educational system and Finnish teacher education.
The reason for choosing Anne as the subject of this study was that she can be regarded as an experienced, skilled, and reflective teacher, yet one who does not have a particularly strong incre- mental belief system. Instead, she shows a general tendency toward what could be called a “mixed mindset” (Laine et al., 2016) and in some domains would be classified as a fixed mindset. Anne participated in a survey that measured teachers' (n ¼ 63) mindsets in a teacher training school of a Finnish university using Carol Dweck's mindset inventory (Dweck, 2000; Kuusisto et al., 2017). The teachers were asked to evaluate their attitudes to eight state- ments on a six-point Likert scale (1 ¼ strongly agree, 6 ¼ strongly disagree), of which four statements were related to intelligence and four to giftedness. Mean scores of 1.0e3.0 indicated a fixed mind- set; 3.1e3.9 showed a mixed mindset; and 4.0e6.0, a growth mindset. A sample item is: “Your intelligence (giftedness) is something about you that you cannot change very much.” Anne's scores indicated that she had a tendency to a fixed mindset regarding intelligence (M ¼ 3.0) and a mixed mindset regarding giftedness (M ¼ 3.75). In open-ended questions, she defined intel- ligence as an individual's quality that has a significant impact on learning and living. She described giftedness as an inherent ability to master certain areas of life and being more skilled than others in the same age group, but she also mentioned that, without work and effort, giftedness will narrow. However, when asked what she thinks mostly influences student success and failure on tests and exams, she did not mention students' inherent qualities, but instead referred to motivation, teaching, and studying together with support from home and other contextual factors. Thus, on the basis of her answers, Anne was identified as a teacher with no strong tendency to either a fixed or a growth mindset. This perception was confirmed in the preliminary interview. Her pedagogical thinking reflected the general tendencies of the Finnish curriculum, in particular, an orientation toward supporting the holistic well-being of students and tailoring pedagogical prac- tices according to students' individual needs. Anne described her- self as a strict, but motherly teacher; it was important for her to create a learning environment where everyone can feel safe.
Anne was a skilled class teacher with specializations in primary education, mother tongue education, special education, and biology. She had ten years of teaching experience and was at that time teaching a first-grade class with 21 students e 11 girls and 10 boys. Three of the students spoke Finnish as a second language. Often in her classroom, there was also a special-needs assistant, which made it possible to divide the class into two small groups taught separately. As part of her job, Anne was also supervising student teachers in her classroom.
I. Rissanen et al. / Teaching and Teacher Education 77 (2019) 204e213208
The data for this study include a semi-structured preliminary interview, video-recorded classroom observations during the course of one week (a total of 19 observed lessons), and three stimulated recall (STR) interviews (a total of 96 min of recorded interview material). Before the actual recorded observations, a researcher responsible for the observations spent three days in the classroom developing an observation sheet. The observations were recorded with a GoPro camera, which could be controlled with a smart phone and enabled the observation of interactions in different parts of the classroom. During the STR interviews, 34 critical incidents during the lessons, first identified by the researcher using the videotapes, were watched with Anne. When interviewees view past actions using video recordings to stimulate memory, they are able to remember their past thoughts with greater validity (Tochon, 2009). In the STR interviews, Anne was asked to reflect freely on the critical incidents and give reasons for her actions in these situations. In this study, critical incidents were moments in which the researcher saw the teacher's implicit in- cremental or entity beliefs actualizing in the classroom.
The data were analyzed by means of qualitative content analysis (Elo & Kyng€as, 2008). In the analysis, we first identified deductively how the features of a process-focused growth mindset pedagogy (see Table 1) are actualized in Anne's pedagogical thinking and practice (research question 1). After that, we searched for critical points in …
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