Trying to Live with a Growth Mindset

We love our job! – There isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t learn something. This week we spoke with Karen Martin, the Director of Curriculum Development and Instructional Services in Hudson, Massachusetts, and she told us about an interesting TEDx talk on Growth Mindset.   We asked her if we could share it and here it is:

The Power of Belief – Mindset and Success: Eduardo Briceno at TEDx

This video is only 10-minutes long but it is filled with information. Eduardo Briceno uses stories, examples from research studies, and funny anecdotes to explain Carol Dweck’s research on growth mindset. He ends his talk by sharing three action steps we can all do to instill a growth mindset in ourselves and in others:

1. Recognize that a growth mindset is not only beneficial it is supported by scientific research.
2. Learn and teach others about how to develop our abilities.
3. Listen for your fixed mindset voice and talk back with a growth mindset voice.

Even though we have read Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset, this video, and a more relaxed summer schedule, has given us time to reflect, think and talk about how these actions steps apply to our work in classrooms.

Action Step 1: Recognize that a growth mindset is not only beneficial it is supported by scientific research.

There are many opportunities to share this research that we have not taken full advantage of when we are teaching. As we listen to students during whole class, small group and individual conferences, we can listen with a “mindset” lens. Are we hearing students say, “I can’t, I don’t know how, or I’m not a reader?” We want to write these observations down so that later we can talk with these students about growth versus fixed mindsets. We want students to understand the brain research so that they know they have the power to learn, grow and change.

When we are in the midst of assessing students and setting learning goals, it is also a perfect time to talk to students about mindsets. During these one-on-one meetings students are often fixated on what level they are reading or on how many mistakes they have made. What a great opportunity for sharing a bit of brain research. How are our students going to change their mindset if we don’t share the research?

Action Step 2: Learn and teach others about how to develop our abilities.

Our tried and true resource for learning about how to phrase our questions, suggestions, and comments to foster a growth mindset is Peter Johnston’s book, Choice Words. We reread this book each summer so that we keep the growth mindset language in the forefront of our minds when are teaching.

The language he uses to develop a child’s sense of agency is so simple and yet so powerful:
• How did you figure that out?
• What will you do next? I noticed how you tried….
• Before you couldn’t but now you….

(Check out our “What Are We Reading” post this week – Choice Words is the book we are discussing)

Action Step 3: Listen for your fixed mindset voice and talk back with a growth mindset voice.

When we heard this third action step it reminded us of a quote about teaching writing by Mem Fox, “If you are not a writer, you will not understand the difficulties of writing. If you are not a writer, you will not know the fears and hopes of the writers you teach.”

Mem Fox reminds us that in order to teach writing well, we have to write. On the same note, perhaps we need to pay attention to what we say in our own minds if we want our students to develop growth mindsets. Are we approaching difficult tasks with a fixed or growth mindset? This has come up for us quite a bit for us over the last 4 weeks as we are learning the “in’s and out’s” of social media. From time to time we have caught ourselves in a fixed mindset:
• I don’t get it
• I can’t figure it out
• I am terrible with technology
• How do people manage this?

Perhaps one lesson from this TEDx talk is for us to watch our own language and reflect on whether we are building our own growth mindsets. We think Mem Fox is right about writing – You have to write to understand how to teach it. Perhaps the same thing is true about a growth mindset. We need to try to live with a growth mindset and catch ourselves when we speak with a fixed mindset if we want to understand how to teach it.

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