Although many educators and parents search for the best practices on curriculum (what is taught) and pedagogy (how something is taught) to grow student achievement, the solution might actually have more to do with non-cognitive or motivation factors.

This leads us to question how can we better motivate our students and children. Academic Tenacity has been discovered by researchers to be a positive factor that motivates students towards achievement. In a nutshell, this term is defined as working hard and smart for a long duration of time. Students with this characteristic are able to work through short-term hurdles to achieve higher end and longer term goals. Parents, educators and students may better know the term for Academic Tenacity as Growth Mindset.

The Growth Mindset was elicited when researchers Claudia Meuller and Carol Dweck altered how they praised students. They discovered that praising students for their ability yielded in a fixed mindset and fostered vulnerability. Students with a fixed mindset did not want to take on challenges and in turn performed worse on tests than those with a growth mindset. Dwek and Mueller saw that students with a fixed mindset more than often worried about “proving it” than “improving it.” Contrastingly, when they praised students for effort, they fostered resilience as students continued effort despite setbacks and scored higher on tests than they had previously.

Furthermore, Meuller and Dweck have classified possessing a Growth Mindset as believing that intelligence is malleable and can increase or decrease based on effort. Someone with a growth mindset sees setbacks as an opportunity for learning, and approaches tasks with the goal of mastery versus performance. 

Understanding the necessity of developing a growth mindset is for ourselves and our children, we’ve put together practical action steps that you can use to start growing achievement!

Action steps for Students: 

  • Engage in continual reflection and ask yourself about what areas you can continue to grow in and how you can practically improve
  • Regularly set mini goals for yourself as a way to implement ongoing improvement
  • Shift your goal from perfection to improvement
  • Replace the word “failed” with “learning”
  • View constructive criticism as an opportunity for growth
  • Find a friend who also strives to develop a Growth Mindset, and will remind you to value “improving” over “proving”

Action steps for Parents: 

  • Teach students the science behind the brain and how neuronal connections strengthen with increased use! The brain is like a muscle and can be strengthened through practice and trials. Here is a website you can use to teach your child.
  • Watch Class Dojo Growth Mindset Videos  with your children
  • Stop praising your child for “being smart,” and instead praise their efforts
  • Use setbacks, mistakes and failures as opportunity for discussion on growth and improvement
  • Shift the focus from “perfection” to “improvement”
  • Emphasize the learning process over the end result
  • Celebrate wins (or improvements), no matter how big or small
  • Highlight the word “yet,” and teach your children that although they might not know something now, they can strive to learn. “We don’t how to do this… yet.”

Dweck, Carol S, et al. “Academic Tenacity Mindset and Skills That Promote Long-Term Learning.” 2014, pp. 1–43.

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