Laine Lenihan Dow

Laine Lenihan

“Shifting from a high school to a high needs middle school with lower test scores than the district and state, I realized that I did not have the strategies to best reach my students.  I heard about the Growth Mindset and decided to research it.  I discovered this: When students and educators have a growth mindset, they understand that intelligence can be developed. Students focus on improvement instead of worrying about how smart they are. They work hard to learn more and get smarter. Based on years of research by Stanford University’s Dr. Dweck, Lisa Blackwell Ph.D., and their colleagues, we know that students who learn this mindset show greater motivation in school, better grades, and higher test scores.”

District: Auburn School District

Award Amount: $5,000.00

Description: At Olympic Middle School in the Auburn School District, Laine Dow (Lenihan) will be developing online tutorials with her colleagues to train staff, students, and parents about the Growth Mindset. Some of the main reasons why we are focusing on the Growth Mindset include:

  • When students and educators have a growth mindset, they understand that intelligence can be developed.
  • Students focus on improvement instead of worrying about how smart they are.
  • They work hard to learn more and get smarter.
  • Based on years of research by Stanford University’s Dr. Dweck, Lisa Blackwell Ph.D., and their colleagues, we know that students who learn this mindset show greater motivation in school , better grades, and higher test scores.What was the problem you were trying to solve?/Why was the work important to your context?
    Shifting from a high school to a high needs middle school with lower test scores than the district and state, I realized that I did not have the strategies to best reach my students.  I heard about the Growth Mindset and decided to research it.  I discovered this:
  • When students and educators have a growth mindset, they understand that intelligence can be developed.
  • Students focus on improvement instead of worrying about how smart they are.
  • They work hard to learn more and get smarter.
  • Based on years of research by Stanford University’s Dr. Dweck, Lisa Blackwell Ph.D., and their colleagues, we know that students who learn this mindset show greater motivation in school, better grades, and higher test scores.

So I decided to further explore this topic as a way to increase student achievement.

Briefly outline the ‘scope and sequence’ of your work
A team of 5 staff, including myself worked to develop tutorials to teach staff and students about the Growth Mindset, what it is, how it is helpful in school and life, how it works, & how to develop it in the classroom and school.  All 90 staff in the building received a copy of Dr. Carol Dweck’s “Growth Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,” and have access to 5 sets of Mary Cay Ricci’s books “Mindsets in the Classroom” & “Ready-to-Use Resources for Mindsets in the Classroom.”

By next year, the staff will have completed the tutorials, students will complete them by October, a book study on “Mindset” will be offered, monthly parent meetings will begin in October to educate parents about the Growth Mindet, the school newsletter and website will offer tips about the growth mindset, and the team of 5 staff will provide continued support about how to use the Growth Mindset.

As a result of the work, what are the significant impacts you are able to evidence? (What changed as a result of your work?)
So far the results of our work have not been captured, I will have more data by June 14 regarding the pilot of the student tutorials to 145 of my students.  Next year, our 700 students will complete the tutorials by October 1 and follow up surveys will be taken at the end of each quarter to determine the impact of the Growth Mindset tutorials.

What were your major learnings?  (successes and challenges)
Our major learnings include how beneficial the Growth Mindset can be based on the research.  We discovered that several staff are familiar with the concept and that our superintendent is a big fan of the growth mindset and supports our work.  We have found plenty of resources, so trying to streamline them and decide which ones will be most effective was a challenge.  Finding time to meet was also challenging, so to communicate we used primarily email, 1 to 1, and our district did provide a half day release.  

What resources did you need to use or to create to support the work?
The resources we used included Dr. Dweck’s book and Mary Cay Ricci’s books, various videos about Growth Mindset, websites: mindsetonline.com and mindsetworks.com, and parts of the “Brainology” curriculum.

As a result of your work, about how many teachers were directly impacted?  How do you know?
So far the teachers who have been directly impacted by this work include the 5 members of the team.  I know this because they shared with me how reading Dr. Dweck’s book had changed how they talk to students.  For example, Mark Lama- our Community in Schools counselor, said that he always interject the Growth Mindset terminology with the students he speaks to.  He also is more aware of the type of feedback he gives shifting from praise about ability to praise about effort.  Myself and Orlyn Carney, NBCT ELA AYA, are both coaches and we have increased our awareness of praising for effort in the classroom and in our sports.  

As a result of your work, about how many teachers were indirectly impacted?  How do you know?
Of the 90 staff I am not sure who has read the Mindset book yet, but as soon as they begin reading they will most likely notice a shift in their thinking and how they interact with our students especially in terms of what type of praise they offer.

What words of wisdom do you have for the next teacher leader working to increase teacher leadership in their context?
To increase your teacher leadership, when you find a need and think about ways to address the need, know that you CAN be an agent of change and that barriers such as time, money, support can be overcome when you reach out and develop your networking web.  Something will come up to breakdown those barriers and when it does you will already have a plan to carry-out and make a difference in the lives of your students and colleagues.