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James is our colleague in Australia and this post was originally on his blog in June 2016.
Sometimes I'm asked, "James, what's your mindset? And I'm inclined to reply "Which one? I've got lots of them." But that's only partly true.
In Carol Dweck's research she often talks about a person's mindset, and it's easy to be misled into believing that people have just one. But that's not true. The research only reads that way because it's usually talking about a person's mindset in a particular context. In different contexts, we can have a completely different mindset.
This post was originally published on Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's Blog, The Spark (4.29.2016)
If you have had the pleasure of hearing Carol Dweck speak in the past few months, you will have heard what we have learned in recent years about cultivating a growth mindset in ourselves and in others. One of her slides that really resonated with the audience at the Learning and the Brain conference in San Francisco suggested that adults talk the talk, but don't walk the walk. On a stick figure graphic, a disembodied head is traveling in the opposite direction from its body. And this is a major issue: adults forget that we can't effectively cultivate or influence a growth mindset in others unless we are cultivating one in ourselves. We have to take the journey, walking in the same direction that we are talking.
This couldn't be truer for leaders. Leaders (whether that be by title or merely by influence) can influence the mindsets of other adults. No, you can't change another person. However, you can have great influence over others.
Helping People Tip Toward a Growth Mindset
It is really exciting to learn about the concept of a growth mindset at first; it makes so much sense! "Yes! When we believe we can improve, we take action to do so, and we get smarter - we change. It's so simple!"
Except it isn't. At some point, we find ourselves thinking, but wait a minute. If it's this simple, why is it that I know so many people who do not change at all? And how come, even when we share growth mindset concepts with some people, it does not seem to make any difference? What is going on here?
It might be easy at that point to blame the fixed mindset, label the person and move on. But that doesn't have to be our choice, and it certainly isn't tapping into our own growth mindsets to take that tact.
There are good reasons why many people are not changing much. Here are four reasons that I've learned about. Later I will share what these look like and what can be done about it.
Achieving Success Through Hard Work, Grit, and Perseverance
by Katherine Moore, Crestwood Elementary School
Last year we began a school-wide Growth Mindset initiative. With the help of a private donation, we created a new program for a new way of thinking. Most of our students come from a very low socio-economic background, and often times they come to us with a "learned helplessness" mindset, a fixed mindset. With the help of Mindset Works®, Carol Dweck's research, and a few passionate teachers, we began the year aimed at making a difference in student outcomes simply by changing the way we think.
To Foster Change, We Must Believe in Change
Once our staff began to see the long-term benefits of holding a growth mindset, our school culture and climate began to change. Teachers began to see in themselves, the outcomes they wanted to see in their students. Through hard work, effort and determination, our student's mindset began to shift. Our students have begun to realize that they can't always control what they are given. However, with a tool belt full of strategies, they can power through their struggles (academically and personally).
Arriving with the implementation of the Common Core State Standards in 40+ U.S. states is tremendous pressure for schools to get results and to be masters of the Core as quickly as possible. Invoking the Growth Mindset as we accept the challenge of the Core standards will help our schools maintain the momentum and stamina we need to develop expertise.
How can schools set themselves up to cultivate Common Core experts? None of us is currently an expert in the CCSS. Expertise will emerge with classroom practice and experience implementing these standards with real students. It will emerge with the willingness to take responsible risks and to participate in collective reflection. It will emerge with strong collaboration and compassionate patience. These qualities are only gained in a risk-tolerant system through strategic, purposeful effort which includes timely, formative feedback.
3.3 million teachers will be asked to change their practices, routines, and lessons this year to align with the Common Core State Standards. That is a staggering number when you think about that many Americans essentially experiencing a major job change at the same time!
It is inevitable that with all this change, some of us will fail. We will mess it up. We will get it wrong and forget some essential component (of a standard, a lesson, a concept). Our central offices will mess up too. Trainings will go awry, resources arrive late, and support will be well-intentioned, but spotty. Are we prepared to tolerate this process and allow ourselves to take the necessary responsible risks to LEARN and grow?
I hope so.