Students who have been unsuccessful in school generally expect the pattern to continue. As with much in life, that expectation tends to be self-fulfilling. One of the most important tasks we have as teachers is to liberate them from that fixed mindset, to help them raise their own self-imposed ceilings. We have to teach them how to be optimistic. Fortunately, current research says that, like so much about our personalities, optimism can indeed be learned, even through early adulthood.
Being a member of a classroom culture that believes “we can do this” instills confidence and encourages students to take chances and have tenacity in the face of challenges. Therefore, the structures we create for our students must convey the “doability” of learning. A struggling student needs to believe that if what she tried first didn’t work, she can try something else, and that if she keeps at it she will be successful.
The use of conversational learning, the repurposing of student work, the learning contract structure, the use of formative assessments -- the strategies described in throughout "A Teacher's Handbook" -- are designed to do just that.