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Toggle navigation MENTOR The National Mentoring Partnership

As part of City Year’s ongoing efforts to integrate research based academic and social emotional supports that are designed to ensure students come to school every day, ready to learn and on track to high school graduation, City Year is piloting a free, online resource that helps adults to nurture a “growth mindset” in the students they work with, the Growth Mindset for Mentors Toolkit. We seek to benefit not only City Year’s 3,100 AmeriCorps members working in hundreds of schools across the United States, but also other tutors, mentors and student focused organizations and to promote growth mindset techniques in the education field.

Cultivating a growth mindset, both in themselves and the students they serve, is part of a holistic youth development framework implemented by City Year AmeriCorps members. This asset based approach leverages students’ developmental stage and talents as strengths in their academic and personal growth, enhancing their ability to achieve at high levels, attain goals and reach full potential.

In 2015 2016, the toolkit was piloted in 23 public schools that partner with City Year in Columbus and Miami. Feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with 98 percent of City Year AmeriCorps members agreeing that the toolkit was valuable to their role as mentors and tutors to students who benefit from additional support. In 2016 2017, the pilot expanded to 10 City Year sites with 1,200 City Year AmeriCorps members serving in 120 schools receiving the training.

Here is a closer look at how the toolkit is being used by City Year AmeriCorps members at one high need public school.

Charla Davis, City Year AmeriCorps member

On a rainy spring afternoon in Detroit, Charla Davis works with three third graders to strengthen their math skills. Math isn’t the only skill she’s focused on, however. Davis is also striving to increase her students’ ability to take risks with their coursework, persist through challenges and rebound after they make mistakes. Clark Preparatory, a high need K 8 school of about 700 students. “Let’s do 5,432 in base 10.”

Mailk, De’jon and Destini begin working out the problem on small dry erase boards.

Satisfied with their progress, Davis decides to add a bit of a challenge. “Let’s do expanded word form,” Davis says, and each student starts writing out the answers.

“How do you spell sixty?” Malik asks.

Six months ago, Davis might have given him the answer. Now, after receiving training in an approach called “growth mindset,” she knows it’s important for her students to try to figure it out on their own and build their confidence. “Spell it out,” Davis says. Slowly, Malik mouths the letters as he writes, looking up at Charla for approval.

She nods. “That’s right,” she says.

Next, the students tackle worksheets of addition and subtraction problems. Davis wants to see how much they have retained from the previous day’s lesson.

Malik rushes through and finishes first, handing the sheet to Davis. She scans it, noticing some growth, but also some errors. She knows he is capable of getting all the answers right, if only he would slow down.

“You worked fast and you worked hard,” she says. “Take another look at number four. You can review some strategies that have worked before that might help you get the correct answer.”

The bell rings and the students start heading for the door. Malik seems a bit deflated.

“I owe you guys a game next time,” Davis says as she waves to them. She makes a point of catching Malik’s eye and gives him a smile. “Start thinking about what you want to do tomorrow.”

Earlier this year, Davis and about 70 other City Year AmeriCorps members in Detroit received training on cultivating a growth mindset to better support the students they serve. The training includes phrasing, feedback and techniques that encourage students to persist through challenges, identify effective strategies and respond to helpful feedback to help them problem solve. Rather than praising a student for being “smart,” for example, growth mindset encourages adults to promote resiliency, improvement and effort, such as, “I know that was hard, but look how your effort paid off,” or, “You haven’t mastered that yet, but we can keep working at that concept.”

The Growth Mindset for Mentors Toolkit was developed by MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership and PERTS, the Project for Educational Research That Scales at Stanford University, with support from the Raikes Foundation, and was piloted by City Year. The online toolkit for mentors is free, takes just a couple of hours to complete and can be helpful for anyone who works regularly with students. It is similar to other toolkits PERTS has developed for parents and teachers. Results from the two year pilot have been encouraging. cities in the 2017 2018 school year.

Growth mindset is a belief that intelligence is malleable instead of fixed and can be increased over time through hard work, effective strategies and feedback from others. When people possess a growth mindset, they are more persistent, flexible and better equipped to handle adversity. They understand that struggle and mistakes are part of any worthwhile learning process.

Research shows that a student’s mindset influences a host of other behaviors and attitudes, and that having a growth mindset can help him or her cultivate confidence, perseverance, resilience and positive decisions, in addition to performing better in school.

The growth mindset toolkit “has given corps members a new language to reframe challenges for students,” says Richel’la Washam, a City Year Impact Manager who trains and guides the AmeriCorps members working at Clark. “I’ve seen a change in corps members who might now redirect students to try a different approach.”
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