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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.
Fiske Students, Parents, and Educators Learn Transferable Skills
Growth mindset movements may share a common foundation, but in practice, they can be a bit like snowflakes: no two are alike! Mindset interventions are teacher-led movements, and we love learning about new and evolving strategies developed by educators on the ground.
Julie Verret, music teacher at Fiske Elementary and elementary band leader for all of the Wellesley, MA School District, wrote to us describing how a growth mindset helped her band students tackle a challenging piece of music. Julie applied the malleable mind concept to her music students because of multi-year, school-wide growth mindset work led by the principal. Verret introduced the idea that a musician's brain can grow with effort and practice. To put this concept into action, Julie and her 4th and 5th grade students worked on a piece of music that would typically be played at the middle school level.
Giving a child feedback – both criticism and praise - is more than just useful; it’s essential. While it may be hard for kids to get motivated, it’s impossible for them to stay motivated when they aren’t sure if they’re on the right track. Giving well-crafted, frequent feedback is one of our most important jobs as parents and teachers.
But as every one of us knows, sometimes the feedback we give doesn’t seem to be all that motivating. Even with the best intentions, our words of encouragement or disapproval can easily backfire or seem to fall on deaf ears, and many of us have a hard time understanding why.
Luckily, scientific studies on motivation have shed light on why some types of feedback work and others don’t. If you’ve gotten it wrong in the past (and who hasn’t?), then you can do a better job of giving feedback from now on by sticking to three simple rules:
Also, don’t take away a child’s sense of responsibility for what went wrong (assuming he or she is in fact to blame), just because you don’t want to be “hard” on them. Letting children off the hook for their own mistakes, telling them that they “tried their best” when it’s clear that they didn’t, may leave kids feeling powerless to improve.
Be specific. What needs improvement, and what exactly can be done to improve?
Emphasize actions that they have the power to change. Talk about aspects of performance that are under their control, like the time and effort that were put into a practicing, or the study method which was used.
Avoid praising effort when it didn’t pay off. Many parents try to console their child by saying things like “Well honey, you didn’t do very well, but you worked hard and really tried your best.” Why does anyonethink that this is comforting? For the record – it’s not. (Unless, of course, it was a no-win situation from the start).
Studies show that, after a failure, being complimented for “effort” not only makes kids feel stupid, it also leaves them feeling like they can’t improve. In these instances, it’s really best to stick to purely informational feedback – if effort isn’t the problem, help them figure out what is.
Studies conducted by Carol Dweck and her colleagues show that when children are praised for having high ability, it leaves them more vulnerable to self-doubt when they are faced with a challenge later. If being successful means that a child is “smart,” then they’re likely to conclude that they aren’t smart when having a harder time.
Make sure that you also praise aspects of your child’s performance that were under their control. Talk about a creative approach, careful planning, persistence and effort, and a positive attitude. Praise actions, not just abilities. That way, when your child runs into trouble later on, they’ll remember what helped them to succeed in the past and put that knowledge to good use.
About the Author:
Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson is a motivational psychologist, researcher, and mother of two. (She was fortunate to have Carol Dweck as her graduate advisor, mentor, colleague, and second mom.) She blogs regularly for Huffington Post, Psychology Today, Harvard Business Review, and Fast Company, where she writes about goals, achievement, relationships and finding happiness. Her new book is titled: Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals (Hudson Street Press). You can read her blog posts and find out more about the book at www.heidigranthalvorson.com.
Follow Dr. Halvorson on Twitter at @hghalvorson
"In a growth mindset, you are focused every day by your growth, not deterred by challenges and not overwhelmed by accomplishments--you're just moving on to the next day." -Brad Stevens
Boston Celtics Coach Brad Stevens is no stranger to success. In 2013, Stevens was named Boston Celtics' head basketball coach, leading one of the most storied franchises in American professional sports. Stevens is an avid proponent of using a growth mindset while coaching his players. About the time Stevens began coaching at Butler University (2007-13), he was given Mindset as a gift. Ever since his initial reading, Stevens says Dr. Carol Dweck's work has influenced him as a coach, a father, and a person. He says, "Regardless of what happens today, [that] should not affect how you approach tomorrow."
Music Director, Julie Ahlborn is putting growth mindset into action!
At Reagan Academy middle school in Springville, UT, her students enter her orchestra class with only a cursory knowledge of sight reading music. She wanted them to see how much they grow in one year so that they will be motivated to continue their music studies, becoming lifelong musicians.