For many teachers, closing the achievement gap is one of the key areas of focus in the classroom.
The achievement gap refers to the gap between academic achievement for privileged and under privileged children. Closing this gap by elevating the performance of the latter group is impressed upon teachers, administrators and just about anyone else involved in education, but how to go about this remains an area of discussion. Is it simply a case of some students are naturally predisposed to perform better than others, or can this gap indeed be closed?
How to close the achievement gap by fostering the Growth Mindset
The ability to close this gap could lie with the mindset of the underperforming students.
Those with a fixed mindset tend to approach learning as a quest to achieve and do well, and place the focus on achievement, results, and performance. Studies and articles on education have shown that students with a growth mindset, however, feel less anxiety and pressure surrounding exams, are less worried about getting things right or wrong, welcome challenges and experiences to grow and learn, and possess better access to their memory. As such, they can in effect “train” their brains to better adapt to learning, which can improve performance over time. This when a growth mindset is encouraged, a student’s confidence can be built, which can result in better academic performance, and thus the narrowing of achievement gaps.
One way in which you can foster a growth mindset is to monitor the way in which you administer praise. One key way to adjust a student’s way of thinking is to reward the effort, as well as the overall performance. Let’s take an example; Sasha is a student working on a science project. Unlike other students that naturally grasp the project, she is struggling and taking slightly longer to achieve it as a result. Rather than deriding her for her inability to grasp the concept, or rewarding other students that have already done so, praise the specific progress and growth mindset values. You may want to say things like, “I noticed you put in a great deal of effort so far, and if you keep up that resilience you will get it soon. Try to focus on the details next time. ” or, “I’m very impressed by how hard you’re working towards solving this problem. Remember to ask your class mates for input next time” By receiving positive encouragement, even when making mistakes during the learning process, and getting specific feedback on what time improve Sasha can feel more comfortable to try different things and ultimately get to grips with the science project.
Closing the achievement gap is just one of many things a growth mindset can help you achieve in the classroom.