Tutorial Activity Promotes the Growth Mindset


A classroom poster promotes the growth mindset. On Tuesday, January 17, the school hosted a tutorial activity to discuss the mindset. Photo by Yolanda Spura.

During an extended tutorial this Tuesday, students participated in an exercise on mindfulness and the growth mindset. The activity, organized by teachers Joanne Miyahara, Susana Herrera and Lisa Bonanno, incorporated a teacher-led presentation with videos and exercises on the topic.

Students did a version of the activity on growth mindset in 2012, but teachers and the administration chose to revisit the topic when they felt that the lesson would again be relevant in light of Los Altos’ recent focus on mindfulness and student stress.

“The feeling has been that having a growth mindset and applying mindfulness skills to the idea of a growth mindset is a good thing,” Assistant Principal Galen Rosenberg said. “So as a kind of cultural value at Los Altos, a lot of teachers and administrators have felt that it helps students be successful.”

Every year, Los Altos allocates certain days to focus on a school-wide topic that teachers and administrators feel would help students be successful. For this year’s activity, Principal Wynne Satterwhite approached Miyahara, Herrera and Bonnano in the fall and asked them to revise the original activity on the growth mindset to reintroduce the topic to students. The revised activity focused on helping students find strategies to grow in a healthy way.

“One of the things I’m always interested in is how to help students learn better and be aware of different mindsets and effective strategies,” Miyahara said. “Just being aware of [the growth mindset] helps students both be able to feel more comfortable taking risks and be building more resilience when things don’t go as smoothly as they would like, or they’re not as successful at the first try.”

Because many students have already had exposure to the concept of the growth mindset, the activity sought to expand on this by introducing the concept of the false growth mindset.

“Applying effort doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to get better, so we wanted to really emphasize being strategic,” Miyahara said. “Part of it is that as we’re more aware of where we are in terms of what we’re thinking and what we’re feeling. We can catch when we have a false growth mindset or where we’re actually in a fixed mindset and… take concrete steps to change that.”

So far, the activity has received positive feedback from students and teachers, according to Rosenberg.

“It’s always hard to tell after a lesson how the students felt about it, [but] we haven’t gotten negative feedback at all,” Rosenberg said. “Most of the teachers and students I’ve interacted with have said, ‘Yeah, it was good.’”

Although there are no concrete plans to continue this activity in future years, Miyahara, Bonanno and Herrera would like to consider incorporating this exercise into the activities done by freshmen on PSAT day.

“[Bonanno, Herrera and I] were brainstorming the other day, and we were thinking that all freshmen could be exposed to these ideas, just because the more you learn and practice, the more you’ll benefit from it,” Miyahara said.