Teaching with the Growth Mindset

Develop a Growth Mindset edWebinar recording link



Teaching to the middle—most teachers don’t want to do it. But when faced with a large class of learners with diverse proficiency, the middle is where many teachers find themselves. Knowing that he wasn’t challenging one-third of his class and teaching over the head of another, Peter Briggs, a music teacher at Lincoln High School (WA), wanted to find a way to manage and support growth for all skill levels. As he explained in the edWebinar, “Developing a Growth Mindset Using Digital Portfolios,” combining a change in his educational approach with the addition of differentiated assignments helped all students raise their performance.

First, Briggs talked about why he moved to the growth mindset over a fixed one. In a fixed mindset, students have inherent skills and can only improve the ones they’re born with. However, in a growth mindset, students can learn and grow any skill. More important, with the growth mindset students focus on the process of getting better and not just how well they know a subject. That focus on the process means that mistakes become part of the journey rather than being stigmatized. Embracing the growth mindset gave Briggs’ students a reason to keep trying in class. Before they might not even show up for class or do the assignment if they thought they’d fail, he said, but now, they do the work because they have several opportunities to improve.

Then, Briggs focused on the method for implementing his new growth mindset: student portfolios. His idea was to create small tasks, assigned weekly that students would upload to a digital platform. Both he and the students could comment on the submissions, and students could upload new versions of the same task until they were satisfied with their performance. This method provided several benefits for student and teacher: Briggs was in constant communication with every student, students had a record of their progress, and the portfolios promoted students’ self-reflection. They could see the benefits of their hard work and celebrate their successes.

Developing a Growth Mindset edWebinar image


Briggs outlined his four steps for creating the curriculum for the student portfolios.

  1. Goals: He started with end-of-year goals for each skill and for each proficiency level within the skill. Then, he reversed engineered the skills and figured out what steps students would need to master to achieve the goal. He wanted each step to be a manageable lesson and not overwhelm the learner.
  2. Methods and resources: Next, he figured out what resources he already had to create the lessons. It wasn’t about inventing new curriculum or buying new materials; Briggs said most teachers already have access to resources they can use to create the assignments.
  3. Write it out: Briggs created a grid that shows each task for each class and for each skill level. He advised creating a student-friendly version so the students can keep track of their own progress and understand the pathway for each skill.
  4. Manage data: Whether in a spreadsheet or an LMS, Briggs told participants that they need a system for keeping track of the assignments, student progress, and grades. Briggs advocated for using an online program that students can access at home and that can communicate with the school’s student grading program.

According to Briggs, the portfolios, coupled with the growth mindset, do more than help students meet their learning goals. The new approach can actually help students enjoy learning.

“I take it one step further and talk about how getting better results is having more fun. The more skills that you can develop the more you can find joy in the level at what you’re doing,” said Briggs. “So, we as a class talk about how the growth that they’re finding in their online portfolios helps them get better. As they get better they have more fun. As they have more fun they’re inspired to get better. It’s a positive system.”

This edWeb broadcast was sponsored by FreshGrade.

Watch the Recording

This article was modified and published by EdScoop.

About the Presenter

Peter Briggs has been teaching middle and high school music in Washington State for 14 years. He graduated from Central Washington University with a BM in music education and earned a master’s degree from the American Band College. Peter has spent the last 10 years teaching at an inner-city high school in Tacoma, WA where he teaches band and percussion. His high-profile drumline has been featured across the state in such notable performances as an NFL half-time show. In addition to music, he has a passion for baking and hiking.

About the Host

Siobhan Nordstrom is the community manager for FreshGrade and is certified in Adult Continuing Education. Over the last three years, she has led dozens of professional development sessions all of which have impacted the way that educators communicate learning through eportfolios. Siobhan has extensive knowledge about the product and the various ways it is being used across the U.S. and Canada.

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TechTools for the Classroom is a free professional learning community on edWeb.net where educators can discover new resources, free technology, and great ideas for integrating technology into the classroom to engage and inspire students.

Fresh Grade LogoFounded in 2011, FreshGrade was created by a dedicated team who saw a better way to show student achievement and progression. Today, FreshGrade is used in over 120 countries worldwide. The portfolio and assessment platform helps educators, parents, and students have deeper conversations about learning. Do it all with just one tool: capture evidence, give feedback, and track progression through standards and custom objectives. FreshGrade encourages students to own their learning while engaging parents at every turn. Start a deeper conversation about learning at www.freshgrade.com.