In reading, Mindset: the New Psychology of Success (Dweck 2106), it occurred to me this was not just another textbook reading assignments. It was a different way of viewing how we learn and think. A different way of looking at how we learn and why this concept can change how schools operate in general.
First and foremost, what is a growth mindset? A simple definition is "Individuals who believe their talent can be developed (through hard work, good strategies, and input from others) having a growth mindset." (Dweck 2016, Harvard Business Review [HBR], "What Having a 'Growth Mindset' Actually Means") Another definition is "a belief system that suggests that one's intelligence and/or talents can be grown or developed with persistence, effort, and a focus on learning." (Ricci, 2017). The growth mindset, while sounds easy, is much more difficult to implement. The counterpart, is a fixed mindset. Simply stated,"believing that your qualities are fixed in stone...urgency to prove yourself over and over...you have only a certain amount of intelligence, certain personality, and a certain moral character (Dweck, 2016, pg 6). Do we accept that once they have reached their highest potential, that is it, they are done? The learning module is at full capacity. Well, that is exactly what the fixed mindset is about. Or, do we believe that the learning process continues on as long as there is the desire and will to learn, this is the growth mindset. What does it matter which mindset one is? The difference is about student development and growth. It is about teaching students to have confidence to take a risk in order to achieve the next level of learning. Its about teaching teachers to take the risk and become willing to try a new technique. Both teachers and students need to understand that not achieving success the first time is no reason to stop achieving. "Failure" does not have to exist ion their vocabulary. Failure is not a bad word.
Students are very quick to discern whether a teacher is sincere or not. Our body language tells them far more than the words we speak to them. As a teacher, I tell them that"if you don't believe in yourself, why should anyone else" but them we try to teach in a way we don't believe in ourselves. Students can tell when teachers are just going through the motions. Knowing that if they have a teacher in the morning, the afternoon kids are getting a better lesson because we improve each performance during the day. That is what it feels like, a performance. By the end of the day, we have it down pat but where does that leave the morning classes?
If as teachers, we think of the growth mindset as another flavor of the year the school is adopting, then teachers will not be successful in implementing the growth mindset in the students. We have all been through the flavor of the year and how we pay lip service to it. If we are to look seriously at the growth mindset, the first question will most likely be, why. Why is having a growth mindset so important? There are several reason, first, it does not limit the ability to learn. It enables one to believe and accept that the possibility is endless in learning and growing by going through the process. Second, it teaches them to set a goal and then through perseverance and motivation, achieve that goal. It is not so easy as it sounds. There will be pitfalls, where they will be unsuccessful and setbacks. Staying positive is extremely important in order to solve problems, stay focused, and believe in yourself. Telling students how they can achieve a growth mindset is simply not enough because teachers need to be of a growth mindset themselves if students are to truly accept the growth mindset.
How will the growth mindset change the way I approach teaching as well as learning in this program? Simple, change your mindset which requires some deep understanding of who we are as a person. Only it's really not that simple. What helps me towards achieving a growth mindset is being an optimistic person. I assumed this would be an easy process until I truly looked at how I view things. These 4 steps, while appearing to be simple, require constant vigilance in how we think:
Step 1: Do I have a fixed mindset?. A fixed mindset might be, why fix it if it isn't broken. It's been working so far, why change it. The fixed mindset is simply reluctance to accept change. I must constantly evaluate my decisions to change to determine if it is simply fear of doing something new because I might fail or simply because I have no clue on how to do it. Something new is always perilous, what if I fail? I must be willing to fail if I am to grow. Failure is not that I did something wrong, Its simply that I found a way that didn't work.
Step 2: I have a choice. I can choose to stay in that safe zone where I know it will work or I can explore something new. It is natural to rebel, to leave things as status quo. If it works, don't mess with it. This is the fixed mindset. I need to learn to embrace the challenge and not be afraid to fail. Failure will happen but it is not the end of the world. I must reflect and learn from that failure and turn it into a success next time or scrap it and start anew. The main thing is I cannot be afraid to take that risk.
Step 3: Find my inner voice to counter my fixed mindset way of thinking. It is natural to rebel against change. Find a way to counter the negativity and turn it into a positive approach. Use the networks I have to ask if anyone else has done this. Post my plans and use the feedback to form in it into a working model. Work at finding a positive to making the change instead of ignoring it because the old way has always worked.
Step 4: Take the growth mindset action. Teachers need to be diligent of their mindset, especially when change is happening. So what does it look like? Take the challenge and just go for it. Setbacks will happen, learn from them and be persistent in making the change, use the setback as the path to mastering the lesson. Have my administrators monitor my lesson and provide the feedback to help me improve as i go along. The growth mindset is not a solo endeavor, its a collaboration. That is why it is important to find a network where you can learn from and contribute to others as well.
How can I improve it to reach more students? By reflecting on myrself, especially in from of the students, one becomes the example for the students. Simple phrase, such as "that would be correct if..." or "your so close" instead of "wrong". Praise is one of the keys to the growth mindset.
What if it doesn't work? What do I do now? I knew this was a waste of time? Self-doubt will happen, so change the negative thoughts to positive. Why didn't it work? What do I need to change? The hardest part is did I display a growth mindset or not? It is the hardest thing to do but that is the best time to reflect and grow, and not lose confidence. People who never fail have no idea what failure teaches, irt teaches us to grow and improve.
The digital age is upon us and we must change and embrace it or we will be left behind. So how is the transition from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset accomplished? Everyone is a combination of both mindsets. Remaining vigilant on which mindset is dominant at the moment so the transition can begin if it is a fixed mindset. There are many things one can do but is that enough? Focus on the students becoming growth mindset may seem like the main focus, but it will not succeed unless I, as the teacher, develop the growth mindset. then what about peers and administrators. My campus is small, 6 teachers and an administrator that fully supports implementing ideas for for faculty growth; however, she had heard of the growth mindset so my path will not be difficult. I will need to develop a plan to introduce it in staff development in the growth mindset is the first step. Continuing discussion through the year is essential for the campus to grow. In order to achieve success in enabling students to achieve a growth mindset is having teachers accept it themselves first.
The growth mindset will make my progress through this course in a different way than I had envisioned. I expected papers after paper in APA format. The growth mindset allows me to choose the media of my work. I get to choose what fits me, not what fits the professor. Because I get to choose, it's mine. I cannot use an excuse of "I didn't understand the rubric" or "that's what I thought it meant". I own it completely and because I do, I can voice my thoughts where I didn't think I could. I never realized how a simple blog can set your mind free to express what I think and that I feel. It is truly exciting. What we state and what we post is authenticated by referencing where we obtained the information, with my hope that eventually, it will be my own thoughts and ideas that others will reference.
I realizes that the growth mindset is the correct fit personally and professionally. This graduate program is the correct direction toward the end means, enabling student success. Approaching this program will be no different that I would expect from students. Do the best one can, persevere especially when it gets tough. Ask questions, accept criticism and learn from it.
Dweck, C.S.( 2016). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Ballentine Books.
Dweck, C.S. (2016). What Having a "Growth Mindset" Actually Means. Available form https://hbr.org/2016/01/what-having-a-growth-mindset-actually-means
Dweck. C.S., 2015. Carol Dweck, Revisited. Education Weekly, Vol. 35, Issue 05, Pages 20, 24.
Dweck, C.S. (2014) Developing a Growth mindset. Available from
Ragan, T. (Producer). ( 2014). Carol Dweck - A Study of Praise and Mindsets. Available from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NWv1VdDeoRY
Ricci, M.C. (2017). Mindsets in the Classroom, Building a Growth Mindset Learning Community. [Kindle Reader version] Retrieved from Amazon.com