In the article, Dweck points out that some who claim to practice and teach the Growth Mindset often don’t truly understand it. This misinterpretation can lead to actions and assumptions that might actually be more harmful than helpful. Others have caught on to the trendy acceptance of the term, but don’t actually practice what they preach.
I recommend you read Carol Dweck’s article, as I think it has some extremely valid points. Those of us who want to effect a positive change in the attitudes of our children and students should make sure we have a deeper understanding of what it means to have a “Growth Mindset” so that we don’t give unintended mixed messages.
For more resources on Growth Mindset, you can click here.
Something I saw on Twitter about a year ago planted a seed in my head that it would be great to have a Parent/Teacher book study. I’d just read Mindset by Carol Dweck, and thought that would be the perfect book.
We got a grant from our PTA to buy 30 books, with the idea that there would be about 15 parents and 15 teachers who would participate. In a school of about 600 students, I thought it would be easy to find parents who would be interested, but I was worried about finding teachers. We were giving the book out right before summer break, and I knew that many were ready to relax and hit the beach with books that are in no-way-related-to-school.
It turned out that my prediction was wrong. More than enough teachers signed up – some even offered to buy their own books if there weren’t enough. However, it took several e-blasts and personal pleas to interest 15 parents. We finally got a group of over 30 people, and delivered all of the books right before the school year was over.
The idea is for everyone to read the book over the summer, and to then come together for a discussion in September. I deliberately decided not to make any summer participation mandatory, but I did want to send out frequent highlights of the book, links, and some optional discussion boards.
I created a Padlet for the first month, and then sent this Smore link (that includes the Padlet link) to all of the participants. So far, I’m the only one to post to the Padlet – so this idea might be a complete dud. Or it might just take everyone time to feel comfortable discussing. Or everyone thinks I’m a dork and they are silently thinking, “Doesn’t this girl ever stop thinking about school?!!”
Anyway, I wanted to share the Smore I did for this month with all of you. You might enjoy the links, including the one to Dr. Michele Borba’s article about teaching your children not to be quitters. You might want to share it with others, or you might want to comment on the Padlet yourself so my comment doesn’t feel isolated and ostracized 😦
“What are you doing?” I asked some students one day. They were playing a logic game that has challenge cards that are sequenced from easiest to hardest. The game had started 5 minutes earlier, and the next time I passed their group I saw they were already on the last (most difficult) card. “You just started this. You can’t already be on the last card.”
“But the first one was too easy – and you’re always telling us we should look for challenges for our brain. When we say something is hard, you say, ‘Good!’ ”
I stopped, speechless.
“Uh, yes, but…”
See, the problem is that I see students do this all of the time. All too often they jump from the easiest card to the most complex. Then they get frustrated by the incredibly difficult last challenge and give up on the game completely – not realizing that if they had gone through the carefully scaffolded puzzles in between they would have learned some of the skills needed for the last challenge.
But how could I explain that without recanting all of my speeches about a “Growth Mindset” and refusing to stay in your comfort zone where everything is easy?
I didn’t. I walked away, but listened carefully to the conversation that went from determination to slow surrender and frustration.
“We can’t do this. Let’s just look at the answer,” someone finally said.
“Yes, you can,” I said. “But not yet. Start from the beginning and you will find out what you need to do to solve that last card.”
You can’t just jump to the top of a mountain from the base. It might be easy to hike through those foothills, but it’s not a waste of time, and it’s necessary to get some experience before you try to reach the peak.
It’s not failure to slow down and put in some practice. In fact, I think most “experts” would agree that it’s critical to success.
So, in this new year, my goal is to help my students understand that “starting with easy” is okay – just as long as you keep improving.
I’ve been collecting more and more resources on developing a “Growth Mindset.” Today I wanted to share with you some videos that could be used to teach students about the value of embracing challenges and finding a way to learn from mistakes.
A little bit more advanced (vocabulary-wise) than the book, Your Fantastic Elastic Brain, this video from SciShow, “Your Brain is Plastic,” shows the importance of continuing to learn and making connections in your brain.
“Growth vs. Fixed Mindset” has great graphics that highlight the main differences between these two mindsets.
This 10 minute video of Eduardo Briceno at TEDx Manhattan Beach would be good to show older students, parents, and teachers.
As you may have gathered from yesterday’s “Flappy Bird” post, I am trying very hard to maintain a Growth Mindset, and to foster this thinking in my daughter and students. One of my favorite bloggers, Sonya Terborg, also talks about encouraging a Growth Mindset in her classroom. One of her ideas, in this post, is to add a Growth Mindset quote to any printed work that she hands out to her students. Sonya links to this fabulous set of quotes that includes some from Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset. Sonya also gives examples of some statements that communicate learning goals and expectations that she found on the MindSetWorks site. In a separate post, Sonya discusses “Developing a Growth Mindset in an Inquiry Based Math Class.” I love the way she leads up to a weekly math challenge for her students.
Here are some other recent resources I’ve collected about cultivating a Growth Mindset:
“You are so smart,” could be the most damaging 4 words that we ever say to children.
That sentence may seem innocuous, even encouraging, but repeated use might actually reinforce attributes that we don’t find very appealing: laziness, risk-aversion, the inability to problem-solve.
Researchers like Carol Dweck (author of Mindset) are showing that statements like, “You are smart,” help to instill a “Fixed Mindset.” Children who are told this on a regular basis believe that they have an innate ability which produces their achievements – not hard work. They become reluctant to put themselves in situations where they might not appear to be smart. If they can’t do something well the first time, they refuse to do it again. Mistakes are disastrous, and the only thing learned from them is to stop trying.
As a teacher of gifted children, I have been a witness to the detrimental effects of a Fixed Mindset. Students who are a victim of this show a gradual decline in curiosity and enthusiasm through the years, and their parents and classroom teachers will talk to me about how these children seem to be determined to do the “absolute minimum” in required tasks. Since I first learned about the concept of mindsets, I have been making a concentrated effort in my classroom to change the language. Instead of, “You are so smart,” I will say, “You must have worked really hard to figure that out.” When students say, “This is really hard!” I say, “Good, that means you are being challenged, and that’s good for your brain.” I praise the students who I can tell are really persevering on a difficult task, rather than the ones who complete it in record time. (“Gosh, it looks like we need to find something a bit harder for you,” I might say to the latter students, or “How could you have made that more of a challenge for yourself?”) I emphasize that the minimum is not acceptable. A few weeks ago, several of my first graders, when asked to write down what they thought the “Rules” for GT were, put, “Go above and beyond,” which warmed my heart.
As parents and teachers we also need to model the Growth Mindset. We need children to see us taking risks, doing things that are outside our comfort zone. They need to witness us deal with mistakes and setbacks in a healthy way – as opportunities to learn. And they need to know about the hard work we put into achieving our goals. We need to stop saying things like, “Well, I’ve never been good in math,” or “Science was never my thing.” If they don’t see their role models taking risks, trying new things, working to get better – then why should they?
Another thing that we can do is to teach our children about Mindsets. This year, our director bought us a great book that I have been using with my 3rd grade students: Aim to Grow Your Brain by Joanne Billingsley. It has completely changed the conversations in our classroom, making the students aware of their own mindsets and remind each other to learn from mistakes and take on new challenges.
Here are some other great resources about Mindsets:
A few weeks ago, some friends and I were discussing the reasons that gifted kids sometimes end up struggling in their later school years. One of the friends is a parent of a grown gifted son, and the other two of us teach and parent gifted kids. We talked about recent research which seemed to support that students who are praised for their intelligence instead of for their effort, often give up when the work gets more challenging because they are afraid of being perceived as “not intelligent anymore.” Although this is not scientific evidence, my friend’s grown son had agreed with this idea, admitting that he had avoided difficult work in school whenever possible for this exact reason. I noted that many of the high school students that I used to tutor also seemed to have this issue. They were failing classes, yet described as bright and gifted kids.
Last week, Larry Ferlazzo posted this video by Carol Dweck, “The Effect of Praise on Mindsets,” which actually addresses this topic. If you are ever in the position to encourage a child, I recommend that you watch this video. It is a powerful example of how our words can shape those we teach.