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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.
Growth Mindset Posters? What a great idea!
Now you can display some of Carol Dweck's growth mindset messages in your classroom and around the school.
James Anderson has created these beautiful images of quotes to remind students, parents and teachers of key growth mindset messages. Capturing lines directly from Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, by Dr. Dweck, these posters will help support the development of a Growth Mindset culture at your school.
Price starts for a set of 7 posters at $55.00 US + $15 shipping (discounts for multiple sets).
size 11.7 x 16.5 inch, no watermarks
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).
Just Tell Me What To Do
One of the most frustrating classroom experiences occurs when students disengage from learning because they're scared to be wrong. As a teacher, I met many students who wanted someone to just give them the answer and now with my own children, I see it again. In many schools, students will sit and wait for the answer, whether that answer comes from another student or from the teacher. And if that answer doesn't come, many are unwilling to look for one themselves. Students often feel that the quest is only for the "right" answer, and they are more willing to wait and copy it down than to risk the possibility of putting in the work only to find out that it was wrong. Unfortunately, this perspective oftentimes generates surface learning, not deep learning. It can interfere with a student's entire notion of what learning is, causing them to think that school is a place to complete work, rather than grow one's mind.
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.