APS Column: Learning from our strengths and growing our mindset

Published 4:47 pm Friday, January 14, 2022

By Katie Baskin

Director of Teaching and Learning

The most wonderful asset our students bring to the classroom each day is their unique experiences, funds of knowledge, and the various ways they approach learning.

While we know that all students have a different learning styles, it is incredibly important to remember that students don’t have just one style of learning when approaching a new idea or information. The way our students approach new knowledge is often in alignment with their strengths. Students’ strengths combine their talents and abilities with existing skills and knowledge to help them take in new information. These strengths are what make each of our students unique and valuable to the learning environment each day.

Strengths are ways of thinking, feeling and acting that truly help students unlock knowledge and attach meaning to new information.

Reframing learning from a strengths-based approach is critical in how students face challenges and stay motivated to work to improve skills. When we support students in focusing on their positive attributes, interest, desires, talents and knowledge that they bring to a new learning task, we recognize their assets and encourage their focus to growth instead of weakness. According to author Carol Dweck (2006), a growth mindset is based on the belief that everyone can grow and change through experiences and effort. Learning tasks can be quite difficult at times and the willingness to stretch yourself and preserver through the difficulty at hand is truly the essence of the growth mindset. Growth mindset is not something people are always born with and can be cultivated in our students through consistent reminders from all adults in their lives that they can in fact do hard things.

As we emerge from winter break and reflect on how we all can help our students continue to focus on their strengths in learning, we can encourage their growth mindset to support positive outlooks about their learning capabilities. Encouraging our students’ optimism about learning helps students become more motivated and ready to tackle new or difficult tasks. We can do this through modeling practical optimism in every-day experiences and sharing our own struggles of how we have overcome obstacles. This can be accomplished through sharing stories or your thoughts as you approach a difficult task. We can also help our students to embrace the word “yet” in learning new information or tasks. Sometimes new learning takes time and we become impatient in our definition of success. Encourage your student to persevere and to keep trying as they may not have accomplished their goal … yet! We can also support our students’ growth mindset by encouraging them to set goals that are achievable, and incremental in showing progress toward the specific goal. Lastly, we can continue to remind our students that hard tasks require practice and effort. Challenges can be exciting if we portray them as such, and struggles are a part of the learning process. At times, working through a challenge with your student may help them to talk through the process of solving a problem and finding a solution.

Austin Public Schools is incredibly lucky to partner with families and the Austin community to continue to support our learners in developing their mindsets and using their unique strengths to accelerate their learning each day.