Thursday, September 1, 2016

Getting Off Course On Growth Mindset

A growth mindset isn’t just about effort. Perhaps the most common misconception is simply equating the growth mindset with effort. Certainly, effort is key for students’ achievement, but it’s not the only thing. Students need to try new strategies and seek input from others when they’re stuck. They need this repertoire of approaches—not just sheer effort—to learn and improve. (Carol Dweck)

I have read and re-read Carol Dweck’s seminal book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,  a number of times and read it again last year with our Board of Education.

In a Commentary Piece in Education Week, Dweck talks about what keeps her up at night.
It something that keeps me up at night too.

In her research, Dweck uncovered that how students perceive themselves and their abilities – mindset – affected their motivation and achievement. Students who believed that their intelligence and abilities could be developed – growth mindset – experienced greater success and increased achievement. Students who believed that intelligence was fixed – fixed mindset – performed more poorly in school. This is, of course, a thumbnail sketch of her research which culminated in her book published ten years ago.

But as is often the case  …. We have run off the rails.

So what keeps Dweck 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! Want to hide learning gaps from them? Just tell them, “Everyone is smart!” The growth mindset was intended to help close achievement gaps, not hide them. It is about telling the truth about a student’s current achievement and then, together, doing something about it, helping him or her become smarter.

The research about mindsets has the clear goal of increasing the capacity for learning. It’s about helping us to become smarter. And it applies to people of all ages and all walks of life.

A growth mindset needs to exist at all levels of a school organization. It needs to exist among school board members, superintendents, principals and teachers. We have absolutely no shot at transforming our schools without the will and the effort. But without getting smarter about teaching and learning – we will never be on the right track.

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