This piece is re-posted from the first Mindset Works Newsletter, 2011
Can we motivate students at the end of the year?
As most of you know, our research shows that students with a growth mindset (who believe their intelligence can be developed) show greater motivation to learn and greater achievement over the school year, compared to students with a fixed mindset (who believe their intelligence is fixed). This is because students with a growth mindset believe in effort and focus on learning and improvement. The year feels long, the students have been working for many months, and they sense the school year winding down—they can begin to feel the freedom and joys of summer. How can we keep them engaged in schoolwork? Research on mindsets gives some answers.
We have also found over and over that praise for intelligence puts students into a fixed mindset and harms their motivation, but praise for process (effort, strategies, taking on challenges, persistence) puts them in a growth mindset and enhances their motivation and resilience.
So, how can we take advantage of these findings?
1. Focus on progress. The end of the year is a great time to emphasize all the progress students have made over the school year.
Remind them of where they started out-- all the things they didn’t know and all things that used to be hard for them. Then show them where they are now and how they got there through their efforts. It is incredibly motivating for students to see that progress.
2. Use that progress to motivate new learning. Help students to use the motivation that comes from seeing their progress to consolidate their learning and to master the final topics of the year.
3. Connecting the learning to their own lives. New research (by Hulleman & Harackiewicz) has shown the benefits of having students write about how they can use what they have learned in their lives. Toward the end of the year is a great time to do this in subjects that students might have trouble relating to.
The end of the school year can be difficult, but, from a mindset perspective, it also presents opportunities.
If you have other ideas on how to motivate students towards the end of the year, please share it in the comments below.