Digital Leading and Learning

Bring on the challenges!

This past weekend my husband and I went on a much needed mini-vacation. On day 1 we went white water rafting. So much of that experience reminds me of Carol Dwek’s (Stanford Alumni, 2014) video! It was the first time we had ever done this and we were paired with another couple in the same boat (pun intended). Those 4-5 hours on the water were filled with “Not Yets” during which we had the opportunity to watch other groups and learn from their and our successes and failures. Then in these moments, praise was provided when groups were able to meet a challenging rapid head on and find ways to work together and overcome it. By the end of the day we found ourselves directing our boats toward challenges instead of attempting to take the easy way down stream. This is the kind of mindset I want to encourage for my students as well.

In the future I hope to get to this point by adjusting my own grading and teaching philosophies along with refocusing my classroom environment. I believe I currently challenge my students in ways that create individual expectations, but what I need to really focus on is adjusting how I praise my students so they want to push themselves out of their comfort zones without fear of bad grades. I want them to see the benefits of taking chances, so I need to take Carol Dwek’s advice and compliment effort and diligence over talent.

If my feedback is based more on a process and HOW students get to an endpoint as opposed to simply the end result, it will encourage them to focus on feedback and avoid cheating. I am lucky in that much of my assessments involve open-ended responses. It is difficult to cheat on these. However, the frustrating part about these is that students rarely look at my feedback. I spend an absurd amount of time giving detailed responses, but students still continue to make the same mistakes. Now I realize it is partially my fault. I need to have them reflect and possibly resubmit so they can start adjusting and embrace challenges instead of taking the easy, comfortable road every assignment. This simple tweak can alleviate the focus on grades because students will know they will not be docked points for taking chances but will instead be praised for it.

The growth mindset is one that needs to be promoted continually and in multiple facets of life. Because of the literature in our high school English curriculum, I am able to not only have students practice it within the curriculum but also reflect on how characters embrace it while they develop. I hope to use the curriculum we already have along with Nigel Holmes’s (n.d.) mindset graphic and the Piktochart created by Jackie Gerstein (2015). The graphic that Holmes created would be perfect to help introduce the idea and expectations. It clearly identifies how a growth mindset results in freedom and achievement instead of early climax and negativity. Hopefully this visual will encourage students to embrace challenges and obstacles and find inspiration in others who succeed.

Holmes Mindets

I also hope to use Gerstein’s continually as discussion and reflection prompts in addition to a conference guide. It really touches on the necessary efforts to follow the growth mindset.


I found one of the most important aspects of Dwek’s speech when she describes what the 13 year old boy shared about applying the growth mindset to his own life. The results weren’t simply with his grades but were also with his parents and peers. Adopting this philosophy will not only cultivate a group of better academics, but it will create better and happier people. We all want our students to be successful in our classrooms, but that is only step 1 of many. We also want to develop them in ways that will make happiness and success the center of their lives. Having a growth mindset will help our kids face challenges with confidence and an eagerness to learn.


Gerstein, J. (2015, September 4). Is “have a growth mindset” the new “just say no” [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Holmes, N. (n.d.). Nigel Holmes explanation graphics. Retrieved from

Stanford Alumni. (2014, October 9). Carol Dweck, “Developing a growth mindset” [Video file]. Retrieved from


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