"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Thursday, March 9, 2017

It Is Not That Easy to Switch to a Growth Mindset

Students are supposed to grow inside classrooms. This is what education means yet we often fail in instilling a growth mindset in our students. There maybe a simple reason: We continue to treat students according to what we perceive as their talents or abilities. We act as if we have a crystal ball and can predict who will excel and who will struggle in school, and then treat students accordingly. As a result, we actually force our predictions to happen. We talk about the importance of effort and strategies yet most of our actions often focus on what we can already see instead of what we can achieve. Our students are unable to develop a growth mindset simply because we keep treating them with a fixed mindset. We can easily talk about a growth mindset, but actually having a growth mindset guide our decision, our teaching, our action, is a different story. And if we do not change how we act in our classrooms and how we perceive and treat our students, "growth mindset" will simply remain a sound bite.

The website Thoughtful Learning lists in the following table several phrases through which we emphasize a fixed mindset.  It also lists alternatives that support a growth mindset.

Thoughtful Learning
then proceeds in suggesting an "easy 5-step process to fostering a growth mindset in your classroom".
  • Believe it
  • Teach it
  • Model it
  • Nourish it
  • Assess it.
Of course, the above is nothing but easy. Most of us grew up being told of how important talents are. That does not change easily. And it is apparently more difficult when we are aware that we do have talents. This does not only apply to adults but also to students who are currently doing well in school.

The following is a paper published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology:

The following graph, which shows the personality mindset scores, a measure of a student's beliefs of personality changeability, clearly demonstrate that improvements in mindset beliefs are quite fleeting:

Above copied from
Orosz G, Péter-Szarka S, Bothe B, Tóth-Király I and Berger R (2017) How Not to Do a Mindset Intervention: Learning from a Mindset Intervention among Students with Good Grades. Front. Psychol. 8:311. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00311

Peter DeWitt, I think, correctly identifies the problem with the following:
The problem with the growth mindset, and why it's sometimes a low-hanging fruit, is that school leaders and teachers do a book study on it, but their practices really don't change as much as their monologue does. Talking about a growth mindset is easy, but having one is harder than we may think. We are all guilty of having a fixed mindset at the same time we are touting that we should have a growth one.

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