As I was looking at my target groups these holidays I realised that students who had not shown improvement were not convinced that they could do better if they tried, inspite of my compelling converstaions like “Maths could be fun once you learnt how to solve the problems.” I had heard them say things like
“ Maths is hard.” “ I can’t do it!” or “I don’t like it, it is boring”. Now I know that this sounds like a reasonable concern for a child considering something new, but to me it is a huge red flag. It means that at least with regards to some tasks, my students had fixed mindset.
Carol Dweck is the author of Mindset: The new Psychology of Success. Dweck teaches that there are two general mindsets when it comes to any area of our lives. There is the fixed mindset, which says, “Here I am. I sure hope I’m good enough,” and there is the growth mindset, which says, “I can figure it out and learn to do it if I really want to.”
Dweck explains the power of the growth mindset and the harm of the fixed mindset
The fixed mindset comes from believing that our abilities and talents are a natural part of us. If this is true, then there is a good reason to compare yourself to others and when you aren’t as successful as you wanted to be or you fail at something, it means you are not enough. This is a lie by the way. It’s your fixed mind trying to trick you like your mind sometimes does.
On the other hand, the growth mindset recognizes that we all have things that come more easily and things that are harder, but in the end everything takes some degree of practice to become proficient, and the outcome is a direct result of your amassed knowledge and mastery of a skill.This means that when you fail at something, it’s because you didn’t do enough or haven’t learned it yet. It’s not about you. It’s only about your effort or ability, which can be cultivated to ultimately get any result you want.
A fixed mindset is common for smart, gifted, or talented kids because the child is often praised for his or her results and for how easily he or she achieved them. This can feel amazing and build a lot of confidence for the child at first, but it creates feelings of entitlement and when someone else outdoes them, then it shows up very ugly.
A growth mindset is most commonly the result of being praised for your effort and encouraged to work hard, make mistakes, and not avoid failure.
When we tell our kids:
You did awesome on that test! You’re so smart!
You got an A without even studying? Nice going!
Here is what our kids hear:
If I don’t score well on my test, I’m not smart.
If I have to study, then I’m not very smart.
Instead, let’s try some of these:
I’m really excited about how you’re stretching yourself to learn more and doing harder things all the time!
That picture has so many beautiful colors! Tell me about them.
You put so much hard work and thought into this essay! It really makes me understand about your country better.
Notice when you say things to yourself such as: I really can’t cook. Instead tell yourself, cooking is a skill I haven’t put the time and effort into mastering.
I know practicing this in class will require effort and so I have to say:
“I haven’t put in much effort in mastering feedback that will promote growth mindset in my students.”
This is my personal professional goal for next Term and I believe that it will help change the way my students think about their learning.