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Growth Mindset

How ThinkCERCA Helps Teachers Support a Growth Mindset


In her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Carol Dweck writes, “Becoming is better than being.” In this elegant phrase and throughout her book, Dweck crystallizes the decades of research that proves what teachers across the world see in our students every day. People of all ages are educable and full of amazing potential. Intelligence is not fixed.

Our jobs as educators matter because our students’ voices matter. We have to approach learners with a growth mindset and help cultivate the habit of courageous thinking with students who are bombarded by so many messages that it causes them to question their own ability and ideas, as Dweck’s research proves.

As one administrator I know once put it, in classrooms, “We see children, not gang members. People, not stereotypes.” Our conceptions of what is beautiful, what is possible, and what is realistic are as vast as the students we have taught over the years. We became teachers, after all, because we have a growth mindset.

Yet, assessments that have been so focused on sorting and ranking have fortified the idea of “reading levels” vs. “readiness levels” and other fixed views of intelligence. Worse, some of our measures have influenced a deficit view of students. ELLs, for example, are viewed as having the problem of not speaking English, versus the asset of a second language that can help them become bi-literate.

In Santa Ana, California, many students live in severe poverty and come to school from homes challenged by extremely distressed circumstances. With limited levels of literacy in their first language and the challenges any of us would encounter in learning a second, they continue to outperform their state in a significant way: 30 percent of last year’s graduates received bi-literate certification, across eight languages!

Imagine if all our districts viewed their students as emerging bilinguals or the problem-solvers we will depend upon in our old age. What if we expected that of all of our students? What an impact on literacy and career readiness we would have!

Education works best when we focus on growth and instill a growth mindset in our children, our educator colleagues, and in the parents we serve.

With ThinkCERCA we support teaching and learning with a growth mindset in a number of key ways from curriculum development to lesson design and reporting tools.

  • Lesson Library - Our close reading and academic writing sets are differentiated for 10 readiness levels and organized thematically by debatable, relevant topics. When students explore essential questions as a class, students at lower levels of readiness bring their bright ideas from a more accessible reading to the same community of learners as their peers who are ready to tackle more challenging texts on the same topic.
  • Interactive Student Application - ThinkCERCA’s technology makes the delivery of best practices in literacy more efficient. Our research-based CERCA Framework provides coherence across the curriculum—providing familiar tasks improves motivation—and our six-step lesson design breaks down complex tasks to avoid cognitive overload.
  • Paperless Grading - Our paperless grading with standards-aligned rubrics allow teachers to provide personalized feedback, including a Personal Growth Focus, so students can take ownership over their learning.
  • Insight Dashboards - ThinkCERCA's data and reporting features make it easy for all stakeholders to track student achievement. Teachers can also adjust reading levels quickly from their student roster to make sure all students are working at the appropriate level of challenge, whether they are at, above, or below their enrolled grade levels.

As our technology and library continues to grow, we too bring a growth mindset to our platform, our community of educators and to our students. We are always learning, exploring, and growing our content library, our resource supports, and our platform functionality in partnership with our students, teachers, administrators, and other expert advisors.

We invest in students and their powerful ideas, along with our community of colleagues in 130 countries across the globe who believe that students are capable of anything. We believe that all students have the right to a life of the mind, not just better test scores.


Eileen Murphy
Eileen Murphy

Eileen taught English for 15 years and was the founding English Department Chair at Walter Payton College Prep as well as the author of 360 Degrees of Text (NCTE, 2011).

As the Director of Curriculum and Instruction for over 100 of Chicago’s highest performing schools, Eileen became passionate about the role technology could play in education in the 21st century and left CPS in 2012 to develop ThinkCERCA to help all students achieve career and college readiness. ThinkCERCA is one of the top Literacy Courseware Challenge winners (Gates Foundation).