We are all familiar with the classic child’s tale, The Little Engine That Could. Her mantra, which has become a cliche in the world of perseverance, “I think I can, I think I can,” is a valuable message that we, as educators, need to embrace. Our district is finalizing our five year district strategy; one area of focus is the importance of growth mindset for all stakeholders, and I’m taking this to heart.
Growth mindset, the work of Carol Dweck, renowned Stanford professor, is based on the simple premise that as humans, we are much more likely to succeed if we believe that effort, and not inherent skill, intelligence, and talent will result in success. I imagine all readers are at least marginally familiar with her work, but if you’re not, a good place to start is her web site, Mindset. The opposite of growth mindset, fixed mindset, is the belief that some things in life are simply out of reach. In classrooms, we hear students say, “I’m just not good at math.” When teaching graduate courses in Universal Design for Learning (UDL), teachers will admit to me, “I’m just not really effective with those kids.” Those kids: the classification or grouping is irrelevant.
All teachers and students need to believe inherently that they are capable of increasing their intelligence, their ability, and their performance by applying necessary effort, seeking out resources, collaborating with more knowledgeable others, and remind throughout the process, “I think I can.”
So, how does this relate to me? This last year, I have been reflecting on my mindset as I teach, learn, and write. I have come to this. I believe I can accomplish anything, but my struggle is “How will I find the time?” This is where UDL collides with the work of Dweck. Once you have a growth mindset, you must foster this mindset in the world of UDL. The UDL Guidelines can help you do this. To manage your time, you will have to set measurable goals (Checkpoint 6.1), plan and develop a strategy for reaching those goals, (Checkpoint 6.2), monitor your progress and make adjustments as necessary (Checkpoint 6.4), and reflect (Checkpoint 9.3) often. That’s the heart of it, isn’t it? Teaching and learning are hard work and require perseverance, but when we make the time to do it well, and follow the UDL Guidelines, everyone wins.
For more information about how to implement Universal Design for Learning and foster growth mindset, read UDL Now: A Teacher’s Monday Morning Guide to Implementing Common Core Standards Using Universal Design for Learning and Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.