In the wake of the many exciting research results – educators and schools are becoming increasingly interested in promoting a growth mindset among their students. However, it is slowing becoming apparent not all educators have understood the concept fully. Dr Carol S Dweck (2016)
Whilst hard work is important, “Great effort” has effectively become a consolation prize, so the very students who most need to learn about their abilities are instead receiving praise for their ineffective effort with no focus on the outcome. Telling young people to work harder is just nagging, not growth mindset. Research has shown that praising the whole learning process (their hard work, strategy, focus or persistence) could promote growth & learning. We need to tell the truth – acknowledging effort but also acknowledge when students are not learning effectively.
Everyone can excel at everything? That doesn’t sound right… In the name of growth mindset – it has been noted by Carol Dweck and her team that students are being assured anything is possible and by simply being positive and acknowledging a growth mindset, that magical things will happen. This perpetuates the failed self-esteem movement. What is clear is that everyone has an amazing potential to improve on almost anything. Knowledge, understanding, skills and strategies are required. We should set high standards and high expectations and embark on a pathway to meeting those standards by scaffolding learning.
It’s often assumed we have one or the other, meaning we can label ourselves and the others around us. Justifying why a student isn’t learning “Oh, he has a fixed mindset”. Blaming mindset for an inability to learn can result in students being scolded and shamed for not having a ‘growth mindset’. When given a choice, of course we will say we have a growth mindset, but as Dweck says “the path to a growth mindset is a journey, not a proclamation”. The negative or positive, all or nothing mentality of win or lose increases anxiety and doesn’t recognise progress. It is an educators responsibility to build a classroom climate, where mistakes are welcome, no answer is stupid, we change what is praised and challenge negative beliefs. Students acknowledge and recognise when they are thinking in a fixed mindset way, then try new strategies to develop their ability. We have both mindsets and can change the attitude towards our own potential on our journey of incremental improvement.
Natural ability does exist! However, in a growth mindset this is only the beginning. We start to exploit the ‘gifts’ and or ‘talents’ we are born with and begin to recognise our areas of weakness are merely starting points that we can build upon. Research on grit, also suggests that we are more likely to stick with those ‘talents’ we have passion for where we have had initial success.
Recently, someone asked what keeps me up at night. It’s the fear that the mindset concepts, which grew up to counter the failed self-esteem movement, will be used to perpetuate that movement. In other words, if you want to make students feel good, even if they’re not learning, just praise their effort... The growth mindset was intended to help close achievement gaps, not hide them. It is about telling the truth about current achievement and then, together, doing something about it, helping them become smarter. Dr Carol S Dweck
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The Live-N-Learn Team