Coding a Growth Mindset in Your Computer Science Classroom
Coding a Growth Mindset in Your Computer Science Classroom

Coding a Growth Mindset in Your Computer Science Classroom

K-12 coding and STEM, Creative thinking & learning skills
Updated: March 2024 Mar. 2024
5 minutes read
K-12 coding and STEM, Creative thinking & learning skills

Learning something new can feel scary or overwhelming. The best way to help students get started is through action and a growth mindset. A lot of times the sense of intimidation, overwhelm, imposter syndrome, anxiety… whatever is in the way and creating action paralysis can often be cured when we just get going.  

Growth Mindset is the belief that no matter your current skill level, you can always expand and grow through hard work and dedication. Those with a growth mindset don’t only bounce back from challenges, they bounce forward. Establishing a growth mindset for our students when it comes to coding (and learning in general) is paramount. They might have an inner belief that’s telling them “I am not good with computers” or “Science isn’t for me”.  

They might have even been told these things by peers, parents, siblings, etc.  

This is contributing to a fixed mindset. We can help our students dismantle these beliefs. The language we use with our students is important. (And we’ll get to that in a little bit). 

When we have developed a fixed mindset, we might believe things like:  

  • People are born smart 
  • Intelligence is inherent and can’t be changed 
  • Having to work too hard is an indication of being less smart or weak 

Intelligence is malleable. Neuroscientists have determined that the brain grows like any other muscle in the body. The first step in developing our growth mindset is the recognition of fixed mindset beliefs or thoughts. When we recognize these unfounded patterns of thought, we can challenge them.  

When we have a growth mindset, we believe:  

  • People gain knowledge and understanding through repeated exposure, lots of practice, and experience 
  • Anyone can become an expert with practice 
  • Working hard to learn something is part of the human experience. In fact, for everyone at some point in our lives, there will come a time when something doesn’t come easily to us. Learning how to persevere and have grit and determination to learn is an important lesson to develop in childhood.  

How students react when they are faced with challenges in their learning is determined by their mindset. Transitioning from a fixed to growth mindset actually leads to different behaviors and results. Evidence shows that learning improves when we practice a growth mindset.  

When students develop a growth mindset, they are equipped to embrace problems as an opportunity to learn. They don’t just bounce back from challenges or failure but learn from them and bounce forward. On the flip side, when students assume that their intelligence is set, they are more likely to seek to demonstrate their “smartness” and less likely to ask questions in order to overcome setbacks in their learning. They are also less likely to attempt the same problem multiple times in a group, or put themselves in situations where “failure” is likely to occur. 

But success is not linear. Being good at something doesn’t happen overnight. And often the best way we learn is through “failing” first.  

It’s key to recognize the subtle ways our language can contribute to our students generating a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. Praising effort, strategy and process rather than focusing on talent and intelligence can actually help rewire students’ thought processes to promote a growth mindset.  

Carol Dweck, Stanford University professor who is known for her research in the field of motivation and why people succeed (or don’t) has informed much of the research behind the growth mindset. Dweck’s team showed that simply telling students “Wow, you must be really smart at this” versus “Wow, you must have worked really hard at this” completely changed how students thought about learning and eventually what they were able to learn. 

When students are told they are smart at a young age without praising their effort, this can become part of their identity. This reinforces the desire to continue to appear smart effortlessly, which often involves avoiding challenges. On the other hand, when students are told things like “science just isn’t your subject”, or “you aren’t great with computers”, this can also reinforce a belief and identity that leads to a lack of trying.  

As many of us have experienced, facing obstacles and challenges are a big part of life, and creating an environment where students view failure as an opportunity to learn and improve their knowledge is key to lifelong success. Dweck states that focusing on “yet” (i.e. “that is something I don’t understand… YET”) creates a growth mindset which helps students to change their perspectives and be more receptive to learning. 

A growth mindset doesn’t ignore different students’ natural interests or potential. Instead, it means that every student has the opportunity to improve and to develop their knowledge, skills and abilities with effort and good strategies.  

You might have an idea in your mind of who a computer coder is, and you might feel like you don’t quite fit the bill. The students in your classroom might feel the same way about themselves. Learning to read, write and create information in a language used by computers and robots sounds highly technical and a bit intimidating.  

Removing preconceived notions from your and your students’ minds about what it means to be a coder is important because EVERYONE can learn to code. Furthermore, it takes zero prior coding experience to teach coding with CoderZ teacher resources.

Learning and practicing robotics coding is a great way to cultivate a growth mindset in children! They get to learn problem-solving skills, use their creativity, and explore new ways of thinking to bring their ideas to life. Plus, they get to have a blast while doing it–talk about a win-win-win situation.

Not many educational interventions are as easy to reproduce and clear in the scope of their impact as helping students develop a growth mindset. With simple and small affirmations and encouragement, students are rewiring their brains for lifelong success.  

Written by:
Sierra Combelic
Written by:
Sierra Combelic

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