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.
The highest aim of education is to develop driven, efficacious learners. That's what will best enable them to thrive.
Why ignite lifelong growth?
Today's world is a learner's paradise and a non-learner's pit. The accessibility of knowledge, rapid pace of change, and vastness, present unlimited opportunities for exploration, growth, and contribution. Driven learners:
What is more important for education to do than to ignite lifelong growth?
This blog post was originally posted on Scholastic's Edublog on 3/20/2015. Republished with permission.
Learning vs. Performing
In The Hunger Games, at the Training Center before the "games" begin, Katniss Everdeen operates with a growth mindset. Her goal during those sessions is to improve, not to perform. She chooses stations where she can acquire new survival techniques, rather than stations where she can show off her advanced archery skills. Hence, other tributes observe her as a novice and they get the sense that she won't be a strong competitor. But she doesn't care. She knows that she can improve her survival skills (i.e. she has a growth mindset) and that doing so will help her.
But when the time comes for her private audition at the gym, Katniss' goals are different. They are not to learn, but to perform and show what she can do, so that the judges give her a high rating, which will help her gain sponsors. She initially misses the target, perhaps as a result of nervousness and lack of familiarity with the Capitol's bow, but she quickly adjusts her technique, calms herself down and delivers.
A growth mindset about mistakes
We can deepen our own and our students' understanding of mistakes, which are not all created equal, and are not always desirable. After all, our ability to manage and learn from mistakes is not fixed. We can improve it.
Here are two quotes about mistakes that I like and use, but that can also lead to confusion if we don't further clarify what we mean:
"A life spent making mistakes is not only most honorable but more useful than a life spent doing nothing" - George Bernard Shaw
"It is well to cultivate a friendly feeling towards error, to treat it as a companion inseparable from our lives, as something having a purpose which it truly has." - Maria Montessori
These constructive quotes communicate that mistakes are desirable, which is a positive message and part of what we want students to learn. An appreciation of mistakes helps us overcome our fear of making them, enabling us to take risks. But we also want students to understand what kinds of mistakes are most useful and how to most learn from them.
What do students need in order to take the reins?
This article is adapted from the article "Mindsets and Student Agency" originally published in Unboxed, High Tech High Graduate School of Education's magazine, in their Spring 2013 issue.
Learning happens in the learner's mind. It always does. In fact, the only thing that determines how much learning takes place is what happens in the learner's mind. What happens outside of it is only meaningful to the extent it gives the brain material for it to think.
Wonderful opportunities for learning, such as great instruction, may exist in the classroom or elsewhere, but if the learner's mind is not attentive, not reflective, not engaged, then little learning happens. Yet an engaged mind will make the most out of learning opportunities and further enrich activities and discussions to generate even deeper learning.
But we can't force students to develop agency and drive their own learning. It must come from within. So how do we catalyze that?
Hierarchy of Learner Needs
A large body of research in psychology and education is uncovering the critical elements needed for students to drive their own learning. It points to two essential focus areas that hold the most promise: Learning Mindsets and Learning Strategies & Habits, highlighted in Figure 1 and discussed in the sections that follow.