Last night’s reading, ‘Mind-Sets and Equitable Education” by Carol S. Dweck, struck a personal chord with me. In the article, Dweck discusses the difference between having a fixed vs. a growth mind-set. Although most of her descriptions are meant to help us understand students and to help them change some perceptions that they may have developed about themselves, there are other applications as well.
They [students] may have a fixed mind-set, in which they believe that intelligence is a static trait: some students are smart and some are not, and that’s that. Or they may have a growth mind-set, in which they believe that intelligence can be developed by various means — for example, through effort and instruction. (Dweck)
Today’s Growing Success workshop gave attendees some time to process the relevance of Dweck’s article. Although theoretically the concepts are solid and make sense, it can be a bit more complicated than it seems. When we really begin to think about applying these principles in the classroom, we must be sensitive to the fragile perceptions held by our students. We all want the best for our students, and we may be able to see their potential for growth and success, but there are numerous reasons why students develop insecurities that seem to disable them. I’m sure that I don’t need to begin to outline all of the social, emotional, intellectual (and other) factors that could influence someone’s belief that they have certain strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes students in our classrooms are holding themselves back because they are convinced that they can only succeed to a certain extent.
So, how do you change mind-set?
Although Dweck does investigate this a bit further, I’d like to share a video that we were presented with today:
Motivation is key. If students could believe that they have much more potential than they first thought, imagine the new possibilities their lives could hold.
After listening to Eduardo Briceno’s talk, I had to see if Josh Waitzkin had shared some of his thoughts (there were quotes that Briceno had referenced in his presentation). I quickly found the next book that is going on my reading list: The Art of Learning. Waitzkin’s appeal is found in his motivation to push past pride to explore methods of learning: “The key to pursuing excellence is to embrace an organic, long-term learning process, and not to live in a shell of static, safe mediocrity. Usually, growth comes at the expense of previous comfort or safety.” (Waitzkin, The Art of Learning)
I had previously mentioned that ‘there are other applications as well’. Students are not the only ones who find themselves spending hours in a learning environment almost every day. Although I’m sure that there are a variety of potential connections between Dweck’s article and educators, I can only speak from my own experiences. For years, I had been convinced that there were limits to my voice. Although I was good at art and learned how to teach, I was too shy to share my thoughts with my peers. It took a very patient and encouraging mentor (with some helpful tools) to begin to break me out of my shell. I had a fixed mind-set and limited my own capabilities. I’m so glad to have a voice, to express my thoughts in my own way and to be able to share thoughts with other educators. The thing is, I needed a little bit of help to get to this point. Keeping this in mind, it is my hope that I can help unlock the potential of some of my students who may struggle with fixed mind-sets.
I want to thank Nicole Morden-Cormier and Donna Fry (and the rest of the Growing Success team) for their thought-provoking workshop today. I know that these thoughts are only a few of the many that were shared, so I look forward to more opportunities to share what we learned today.