Monday, October 3, 2016

Back to School With Growth Mindsets

Last spring, seventeen of our staff members signed up for a book club with Carol Dweck's Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

Last week was our first meeting.  Our members discussed the difference between growth and fixed-mindsets and what that means for students, and also for ourselves and other adults that we live and work with.  We also decided that we all have a mix of fixed and growth mindsets, depending on the circumstances.  We can see evidence of fixed vs. mindset in watching how people take on challenges.  Do they avoid or embrace a challenge.  When they make a mistake, fixed-mindset folks see it as a failure and are embarrassed, while growth mindset people see it as a temporary setback, something to learn from and move on.  Perseverance, asking questions and taking risks are other qualities that are strong in the growth mindset character.

What does this mean for our students?  Teachers are becoming more aware of and sensitive to how children think about their learning.  Teachers are able to then coach students in how they think and talk about themselves.  For example, if a child child says, "I can't do it," a teacher might say, "You can't do it yet  but with more practice and perseverance, you will be able to."  If a student were to say, "I'm no good at math," the teacher might reframe it as, "I find math challenging, but I know I can get better."

We know so much more about the brain and its plasticity than in the past.  Science has given us the facts to back our teachers' instinct: that every child can learn. We want our students to be optimistic and resilient people, to be able to do good in the world and make it a better place that it is now.  I am grateful to be in such a hopeful community of teachers and learners.

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