Growth Mindset in Writing

Like teachers, I did not spend much time learning how to teach the writing process in my classes. While I learned a lot about theory and I took classes that helped me to improve upon my own writing, I was not given effective direct instruction in how to help my students become better writers. That particular skill came with time, trial and error, and networking with my fellow Social Studies teachers

While I eventually felt like a competent teacher, it wasn’t until I fully embraced the concept of growth mindset that my classroom instruction went from teaching competent writers to writers who were constantly improving.

For most of my career I had assigned drafts and outlines that received completion grades as a way to encourage students to do the work necessary to make their writing better down the road. While most did the work, I still found that the vast majority of them continued to make simple mistakes in their research reporting or formatting when I repeatedly made notes and told them to fix it when they came to me for writing conferences. Grading papers continued to be frustrating because I was marking small mistakes that should have been fixed through the process instead of focusing on quality of content.

I finally added a step to the writing process, including more work days which allowed me to personally work with students and help them make the changes at my desk instead of depending on them remembering to do so once they returned to their own desks. I discovered that many of the mistakes that I had been complaining about for years were actually simple fixes, that students didn’t necessarily know how to make those fixes that I had assumed for years they knew how to do (and they were just too embarrassed to ask).

More importantly, it pointed out the individual needs of my students, some of whom picked up on the tutorials quickly and rarely needed a refresher and students who needed to be walked through the process of formatting and citations multiple times before they were able to do it on their own.

In the end, I discovered that the process to get to our final product was often more exhausting and required more work from both teacher and student, but the end result was significantly better than I had been getting for years. Students could use the later stages of the writing process focusing on improving their final product. Grading was less frustrating and more efficient because I was less distracted by little things that had little to do with the content of student papers.

It took significant dedication, but I finally felt like my students really were constantly improving over the course of the year instead of periodically with certain papers. To me, that was a huge win.

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