Perceptions of 6th Grade Content Area Teachers Regarding Growth Mindset Strategies
Lewis, Anita Louise
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Title: Perceptions of Sixth-Grade Content-Area Teachers Regarding Growth Mindset Strategies Background: Students in America face many challenges during their middle school years that social and emotional learning competencies can help. Growth mindset, one of the social and emotional learning competencies, has been defined as when people believe that their abilities can be advanced through dedication and hard work; that intelligence can be developed. Having a growth mindset can have a positive impact on student achievement. Teachers' ways of thinking and understanding are vital components of their instructional practice and are important influences on the way they conceptualize tasks, implement initiatives, and engage students. Purpose: The purpose of this study was to examine the perceptions of five sixth-grade teachers regarding growth mindset strategies and their perspectives regarding the implementation and effectiveness of such strategies. This study was guided by the research question: What are the perceptions of sixth-grade content-area teachers regarding growth mindset strategies and their influence on students’ knowledge, skills, and dispositions? This study will contribute to the literature as it can draw attention to the perceptions of teachers and their role in the effective implementation of growth mindset strategies. Methods: This qualitative case study used a social network sample to select five sixth-grade teachers on a suburban middle school campus currently implementing a campus-wide growth mindset and social and emotional learning initiative. The campus initiative includes professional development, expert speakers, a campus character cadre, and school-wide social and emotional learning and growth mindset lessons. The researcher collected data from semi-structured interviews with each of the five participants, a follow-up member checking interview, and the researcher’s reflective notes. After collecting the spoken words of the teachers from the interviews, the researcher analyzed their responses to discover patterns and factors that contributed to understanding the perceptions of the teachers. From the data collected, the researcher organized the patterns and focus areas, conducted word frequency tests, and created word clouds to identify and illustrate emergent themes. Results: The findings revealed that sixth-grade teachers on a campus implementing social and emotional learning and growth mindset initiatives perceive such measures as important for student social, emotional, and academic success. However, though frequently promoted in the district and on the study campus, teachers perceived an apparent lack of explicit professional development to build the efficacy of educators in those areas. The teachers viewed building relationships, being accessible, and encouraging risk/mistake tolerance as key strategies in developing growth mindset thinking. Moreover, teachers believed any initiatives to develop mindset should include the right amount and block of time and detailed training for those interested. Conclusion: Teachers view the development of growth mindset thinking as important for the social and emotional health and academic success of students. However, explicit professional development is needed to support those educators interested in implementing the strategies and initiatives to develop those skills. This study can help to further the conversation and garner the support these teachers need to make a positive impact on the growth mindset of their students.