Coaching Teachers and Technology: Mindset Matters

ISTE Coaching Standard 1

For module 1 of our EDTC 6105 course, we are focusing on ISTE Coaching Standard 1 indicator’s b and d. The standard focuses on visionary leadership when planning, developing, communicating, implementing, sustaining, and evaluating technology in classrooms, schools and/or at the district level. As I began reflecting on this standard, the first thing that came to my mind was: mindset. 


Throughout my 6 years in teaching, I have become aware of the ever-changing landscapes within the educational field. Although not all changes have been in the realm of technology many are. Technology has impacted almost every aspect of our lives today, and education is no exception. How differs from class, school, and district, but regardless comes with benefits and challenges. Some benefits include expanded access to education, global communication and collaboration, enhanced learning environments, and new instructional methodologies, and pedagogies. 


Technology is unique in that it is always evolving. In fact, as a teacher, I often hear that we are preparing students for jobs that don’t exist using technologies that haven’t been invented; in order to solve problems that we don’t even know are problems yet. This makes teaching with technology or directly teaching technology to students or teachers even more important but also even more challenging. Just when you think you have masted one technology another has come and replaced it. One take away I’ve had from this reality is that my mindset matters.


What do I mean by “mindset”? I am referring to what psychologist Carol Dweck of Stanford University refers to as your beliefs. Dweck’s research on mindsets found that people hold beliefs about the world and the challenges in their lives, and suggests that most people fluctuate between a fixed or growth mindset based on messages in different contexts.  

  • Fixed Mindset: the belief that qualities are inborn, fixed, and unchangeable. 

  • Growth Mindset: the belief that abilities can be developed and strengthened by way of commitment and hard work.

You can see more about Growth Mindset from Carol Dweck’s TED Talk. 

I was just at a district-led training, where k-2 teachers were being taught how to use new iPad and Chromebook devices as well as, how to use an online learning platform that the district adopted. The climate in the room was mainly positive, and most teachers were eager to have devices and a learning platform that amplified student voice and agency. However, this does not mean things were in any way smooth or easy. No, throughout the training there were many times where teachers got lost or confused and encountered problems. One teacher eluded to the learning platform as a new language she had to learn. Even at the end of the 7 hour day, we had just scratched the surface of discovery with the new technologies. Nevertheless, teachers would soon face a new challenge. Going back and teaching or implementing it with students. This was going to require some hard work, planning, problem-solving, persistence, and some patience- all things involved in a growth mindset. 

Coaching a Growth Mindset

When embarking on a new journey it helps to have a coach, mentor or friend to motivate, encourage and help you. My role this quarter is to partner with a teacher and work as a peer coach to help them implement or enhance the learning in their classroom with technology. With the idea of mindset being the first step in tackling technology, I set out to answer the following question: 


“What are ways as a technology coach that I could foster and encourage a growth mindset in teachers who are learning new technology?”


To answer this question I went back to much of Dweck’s research. Additionally, I was fortunate to participate in a study conducted by Researchers Stephanie Fryberg at the University of Washington, Mary C. Murphy at Indiana University, and Megan Bang at Northwestern University who developed the Culturally Inclusive Growth Mindset curriculum to shape teachers’ beliefs about diverse students and teach them strategies for better engaging students from different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. As part of the study I participated in 5-days of professional development training that focused on giving teachers the tools they need to promote a growth mindset for all learners. So some ideas were inspired by information learned at the training or through the experience.  

Different Contexts, Different Mindsets

During the week-long training we were introduced to three contexts in which fixed mindsets tend to come up:

o   Evaluative Situations– when given negative feedback people tend to shift to a fixed mindset.

o   High Effort Situations- when praised for the effortless, efficient, and easy ways we “got things done” leads people to quit or stop working when things get hard. 

o   Success of Others- tendencies to hide mistakes and deficiencies, so you avoid challenges. 


As a coach, I thought about times when this might be true for a teacher learning or applying new technology. For example, an administrator, teacher or parent questioning the validity or impact of the technology on learning (evaluative situations). When learning new technology and running into problems and questions that require perseverance and/ or asking for help (high effort situations). Or when coworkers or students are proficient with a technology you are novice or beginning with (success of others). 


There are many other examples of situations from my own experiences and observations where a fixed mindset has come into play with technology, and I’m sure other contexts. However, I find thinking about these three contexts to be a helpful lens as a coach. As I answer my question above I will use the three contexts to frame growth mindset strategies that may combat the tendency of fixed mindset in teachers when learning or implementing new technology. 

Fostering Growth Mindset as a Coach

Evaluative Situations:

  • Provide constructive feedback 

An important component of cultivating a growth mindset is providing specific feedback (Dweck, 2006). However, when coaching adults it’s important to frame feedback in constructive ways. One way to do this is to start by asking (or providing ideas for) teachers to select the type of feedback they receive. This helps establishes a basis for supportive feedback and helps them feel comfortable taking risks. Additionally, Dweck encourages that when giving feedback to offer strategies on how to overcome difficulties or challenges. 


  • Establish trust 

Research suggests that teachers feel more comfortable and are more successful when learning or trying new things when they feel supported by a trusting coach  (Harrison & Killion, 2007; Poglinco & Bach, 2004; Taylor, 2008). When beginning to establish trust work by Bean (2004) suggests that coaches can develop trust with teachers by “initially engaging with teachers in informal, low-intensity settings, like hallway conversations, and slowly working their way up to more intense, formal interactions.” (p 63, Gaely, 2016).  


Three ways to sustain trust:

Respect privacy

Refrain from judgment

Honor shared decision making


  • Create an environment where mistakes are viewed as learning opportunities

If mistakes are viewed as opportunities to learn, we can use them to reflect, set goals and grow (Dweck, 2006). Although, this can be scary for teachers it’s essential for a growth mindset. Framing new learning as a process can help foster a space where mistakes are valued and learned from (Edutopia, 2015). 


High Effort Situations:

  • Frame new learning challenges

During the growth mindset trainings, I was introduced to the power of framing. When introducing a new task or technology using frames such as:

“We’re going to step out of our comfort zone.”

“This will take time and practice.”

“It’s really important to support each other when we struggle.”

“This is an opportunity for new connections.”


  •  Normalize fixed mindset thoughts 

Acknowledging the fixed mindset as normal. We are a mixture of fixed and growth mindset and probably will always be. If we can acknowledge the fixed mindset thoughts and actions that arise we can use them as a reflective tool. In a follow up on Education Week Dweck acknowledged that misinterpretations of mindset lead people towards what she called, “false growth mindsets” and that in order to “help educators adopt a deeper, true growth mindset, one that will show in their classroom practices we should legitimize the fixed mindset.” (Dweck, 2015). Sharing your own learning struggles with teachers and letting them see that you have faced challenges and how you have overcome them can help foster a growth mindset. 


  • Give specific praise  

Dweck’s research on mindsets emphasizes that if we praise people on effective strategies or processes they’ve tried or used it conveys that they can develop their abilities and it suggests how this can be done. She refers to this as praising the process not product. Praising teacher’s hard work and commitment promotes a growth mindset if done so in intentional or specific ways.



Success of Others:

  • Allow time for personalized goal setting and reflection

Facilitating individualized goal setting that applies to teachers’ specific needs can help scaffold new learning and incentive the distance traveled not the end score. Also, providing a chance for teachers to reflect upon their work towards these goals and consider what they learned from the process is equally important (Dweck, 2006). 


Banks, S. (2015, February 4). A Coach’s Toolkit: Three Ways to Build Trust. Retrieved October 13, 2019, from


Dweck, Carol S. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. New York: Random House, 2006.


Dweck, C. (2015, September 22). Carol Dweck Revisits the ‘Growth Mindset’. Retrieved October 13, 2019, from 


Galey, S. (2016). The Evolving Role of Instructional Coaches in U.S. Policy Contexts. The William & Mary Educational Review, 4(2), 54–70. Retrieved from


Harrison, C., & Killion, J. (2007). Ten roles for teacher leaders. Educational Leadership, 65(1), 74-77. 


Heggart, K. (2015, February 4). Developing a Growth Mindset in Teachers and Staff. Retrieved October 13, 2019, from


Mueller, C. M., & Dweck, C. S. (1998). Praise for intelligence can undermine children’s motivation and performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75(1), 33-52.


Poglinco, S. M., & Bach, A. J. (2004). The heart of the matter: Coaching as a vehicle for professional development. Phi Delta Kappan, 85(5), 398-400. 


Taylor, J. E. (2008). Instructional coaching: The state of the art. In M. M. Mangin & S. R. Stoelinga (Eds.), Effective teacher leadership: Using research to inform and reform (pp. 10-35). New York, NY: Teachers College Press.


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