A Growth-minded Approach to Quick Conferencing

Chris Hagedorn

by Chris Hagedorn

For Middle Level

Educators and students with growth-mindsets
believe effort, not talent, is the path to mastery.
Change and growth are possible for everyone,
everywhere, all the time.

Lately, I've been working with teachers on using a growth mindset to support struggling students, and developing this mindset in the students.

Perhaps you and a student are standing near the doorway before or after class, or near your desk while others are working independently or in small groups. In moments like these, here are some ways to use a quick conference to model and teach a growth mindset:

Teacher working with a boy

Assert your belief that the student can grow, and set the tone for constructive problem-solving: "Jackie, I want you to know a couple of things about me. First, I'll never, ever give up on you. Whether you are happy with me or I am happy with you in any given moment; when you're successful and when you're struggling; I'll always be in your corner.

"Second, I'll never give up on our rules and social contract, either. I'll never let anyone get away with breaking one of our rules. If I allow that, I'm not doing my job fairly and effectively. Let's come up with a plan that gives you a chance to grow and follow the Social Contract."

Be flexible as you plan together. Your focus is on growth: "Jackie, it doesn't matter to me what redirection tool gets you back on track. I just want to find one that works for you. Tell me which one has worked best for you so far."

Show that effort is the key to growth. Make an empathy connection with the student—share a time you've struggled with something similar: "Jackie, lately you've been looking tired and unmotivated, like you don't have a lot of energy for schoolwork. It happens to me, too. There are some days when I come to school tired, and I don't feel I can do everything my job requires. But I fight through the fatigue and get the job done anyway. If I don't, who will? Well, it's the same for you. There are days when you're tired, or when something is distracting you. But if you don't learn as much as you can, every day, including on the days where it's extra hard to stay focused, who will learn for you? I want you to learn to fight the fatigue, so let's dig in and solve this."

Separate the person from the behavior. Assert your belief in the student's growth despite past behavior and performance: "Jackie, there are two things that are very clear to me. Number one is: I like you. You have many positive qualities. You are..., and.... Number two is: I won't accept behavior that goes against our Social Contract. So when you... [name specific rule breaking], I will never tolerate it. Instead, I'll respond by...."

When necessary, brainstorm additional actions to take, perhaps outside the classroom. Show how growth-mindedness sometimes involves seeking a wider circle of support: "Jackie, this is our fourth conference in the last two weeks. We've tried [X, Y, and Z]. We haven't found the support that will help—yet! I'm ready to consider plans that include people outside the classroom. Let's talk about how a family member, coach, school counselor, or administrator could help you grow past this issue."

Learn more about all three Developmental Designs teacher mindsets, growth, action, and objective, in this excerpt from Classroom Discipline: Guiding Adolescents to Responsible Independence.

Chris Hagedorn is the co-author of Classroom Discipline: Guiding Adolescents to Responsible Independence

Posted May 2013

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Related Topics: 
Teaching Mindsets