PLTW Gateway and the Growth Mindset

Ross Hartley teaches PLTW Gateway at Ridgeview STEM Junior High in Pickerington, Ohio.

I have taught both Design and Modeling and Automation and Robotics to 7th and 8th graders at Pickerington Ridgeview Junior High for three years. What I love the most about this program is the ability to incorporate and promote the growth mindset to my students.

There are two distinct types of mindsets: fixed and growth. The difference between these two mindsets is similar to the difference between writing with a pen and writing with a pencil with an eraser. A fixed mindset is similar to writing with a pen in that once it has been written, it cannot be changed or edited. On the other hand, a growth mindset is similar to writing with a pencil with eraser; it can be changed or edited over time. Those with a fixed mindset believe that intelligence and talent cannot be changed over time and that there is a pre-determined amount of both intelligence and talent in each individual. Growth mindset believes that intelligence and skill can be developed over time through consistent, repeated, intentional effort. 

The PLTW Gateway program supports the growth mindset by promoting three characteristics in students: intentional effort, embracing challenges, and long-term perseverance. Through all the different challenges that students complete, these three life-long skills are required, promoted, and strengthened. The courses are designed with a growth-mindset focus by fostering these student actions: trying new things and ideas, learning from failure, not giving up when your idea(s) does not work out, and effort.

My own personal journey with accepting the opportunity to teach these classes – from going through PLTW Professional Development to actually teaching these classes – has been laced with the growth mindset.

I previously taught 6th-grade math and science. When I was offered the opportunity to teach these PLTW classes, I was very hesitant. I felt very comfortable with my previous position and felt very uncomfortable with these new engineering classes and topics, as I had no prior experiences.

I ultimately embraced this new challenge with the attitude of “do something once a day that scares you.” With Core Training came my first experience working with PLTW and its curriculum. My colleagues and I learned by doing; specifically, by making mistakes, learning from those mistakes, and trying again with more information. This cycle of trying an idea, learning from it, and then trying again more intelligently is the growth mindset in action. To get through Core Training, it took perseverance to try new ideas and deal with failures, along with effort to complete the various challenges. And because we had to use those skills, it is now much easier for us to identify, promote, and foster those skills in students in our classes.

These are not just skills that are only applicable in PLTW classes but also in the class that is life. The characteristics that are promoted in PLTW are those same characteristics that a student will need to be successful in all different situations that they will come across in their life.

PLTW Gateway classes are much more than pre-career classes, but rather life-skills classes.

PLTW’s blog is intended to serve as a forum for ideas and perspectives from across our network. The opinions expressed are those of each guest author.