Sign up for our newsletter to become part of the conversation:
** Please enter a valid email to join our community **
Thank you for joing the Mindset Works Community! Check your email for more information.
A growth mindset – the knowledge that one becomes more intelligent with effort - is being recognized more and more as something that we can cultivate in our students. If you would like some help getting started with cultivating growth mindsets by helping students learn about effective effort, this post is for you.
What Is Effort?
At the most basic level, effort means you are trying. In my experience though, students claim that they are trying, and may believe that they're trying, but they do not know what trying effectively actually looks like. To many students, trying is merely thinking about doing the work, or finding a friend (or the Internet) to get answers from. For example, there are many students who have a hard time seeing the difference between doing math and copying someone else's math, or between helping someone with a task and just giving him the answer. They think they did their homework even though they may have copied most of it from the board or from a friend. One thing I tell students is "That is like tracing a picture – you traced your homework, you didn't "do" it."
If students are struggling, we want them to remain motivated, try harder, and stick with it. But what about the saying, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result"? If a student has tried to learn something, didn't succeed, tried the same thing again and again, and never felt progress, is he likely to think that trying yet again will yield results? And is that motivating or demotivating?
George Washington had a lot of grit. He led the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War when the British army had much greater resources, and more and better-trained soldiers. It took grit to lead the Continental Army for eight years and eventually win the war. But George Washington also sometimes quit, which seems at odds with having grit. He went into battles aiming to win, but when things weren't working in his favor, he sometimes decided to retreat. He would give up the near-term goal of winning the battle because he realized that pursuing that goal would yield large losses in the American army, thereby compromising the more important, long-term goal of gaining independence. He'd go back, regroup, think about a different strategy or tactic to try next, set a new goal, and go for it. If that didn't work, he'd try something else, always committed to the big aim. This is grit. It's the "perseverance and passion for long-term goals" (Duckworth, Peterson, Matthews, & Kelly, 2007, p.1087).