Tag Archives: fixed mindset

The industrious child

The advice to go to school, work hard, get a good job seems to be often repeated, as if it is advice given to all young people as they are growing up. Funnily enough, I don’t remember receiving it when I was in school, though I may have been given it. With or without it, I think I was fairly industrious, for the final year anyway, studying six hours long into the evening each day after school. I devoted one hour to each of my six subjects. I needed to work hard to get the job of my dreams: all I wanted to be was a teacher.

I think I have probably always worked fairly hard, even when I wasn’t ‘working’. Maybe I should rephrase that, and say that I consistently put in a good effort, as long as low marks for exercise and housework are not put into the aggregate.  Effort doesn’t always produce the hoped-for results, and sometimes the results can be achieved without any apparent effort. I have not yet found that in relation to exercise or housework, though. I’ll let you know when I do.

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills is talking about being industrious. She says that

“Making a living as a writer is not exactly the career path any school counselor would promote, but any industrious writer can make it work.”

Tony Wagner - iterations

I hope she’s right. In the current iteration, of which there have been a few, of my teaching career, I am combining my passion for education with my love of writing.

Charli says that

“You have to find a niche … an outlet and fair payment.”

I’m working on those and I’m hoping that this time my effort will produce the desired result.

My niche: early childhood educational resources with a point of difference being interactivity in some

My outlet: a website readilearn, soon to be launched

Fair payment: while some resources will be available free of charge, others, including the interactive resources will be available only to subscribers

The relationship between effort and result is relevant when thinking about growth mindset and praise, both of which have previously been discussed on this blog, here and here for example.

fixed - growth mindset

Growth mindset is a way of thinking about learning proposed by Carol Dweck; of viewing learning as occurring on a continuum of possibilities that may not yet be, but have the potential to be, achieved. It differs from thinking about the ability to learn as being fixed or limited in various unalterable ways.

Much of the discussion about praise, see here, here, and here, referred to how the effect of praising for effort, “I can see you worked hard on this” differed from that of praising achievement ‘Great job!”. Personally, I’m hoping for a bit of both once my website launches. I’d like some praise for the product, but also recognition of the effort. I just have to hope others find it worthy. I definitely don’t want to receive any hollow praise, which I think is a major criticism of the comment “Good job!”.

ryanlerch_thinkingboy_outline

Needless to say my interest was piqued by a statement in the opening paragraph of the post Mindset, abundance by Mary Dooms on Curiouser and Curiouser this week:

“a colleague … and I continue to commiserate on the implementation of Carol Dweck’s growth mindset research.”

Dooms goes on to say that “nurturing a growth mindset is a daunting task” and explains that their fear “that growth mindset has been reduced to the grit mentality of telling the students to work harder” is shared by Dweck.

I followed the link provided to an article published in September 2015 in which Carol Dweck revisits the ‘Growth Mindset’. In this article Dweck says that one of the biggest misconceptions about a growth mindset is equating it with effort. She says there is more to achievement than just effort and reminds us that effort has a goal: learning, improvement or achievement. Effort is not made simply for effort’s sake and there is no point if it is not achieving something. She cautioned that we need to be aware of when effort is not productive and to provide students with a range of strategies to use when they get stuck.

She says

“Too often nowadays, praise is given to students who are putting forth effort, but not learning, in order to make them feel good in the moment: “Great effort! You tried your best!” It’s good that the students tried, but it’s not good that they’re not learning.”

She explains that

“The growth-mindset approach helps children feel good in the short and long terms, by helping them thrive on challenges and setbacks on their way to learning. When they’re stuck, teachers can appreciate their work so far, but add: ‘Let’s talk about what you’ve tried, and what you can try next.’”

She goes on to say that having a growth mindset is not a destination, it is a journey. We all have some thoughts and responses that are more akin to a growth mindset and some akin to a fixed mindset. It is important to recognise both and continue to grow in growth mindset thinking. I know I still have a lot of learning and growing to do, but with Dweck’s acknowledgment of the same, I know I am in good company.

Dooms also links to an article by Peter DeWitt published in Education Week Why a ‘Growth Mindset’ Won’t Work. DeWitt states that according to John Hattie, whose work I have previously mentioned here, a growth mindset has little effect on classroom results. Now that’s putting the cat among the pigeons.

However, DeWitt explains that the reason for the low effect is that most adults have fixed mindsets which they transfer to students. He says that, for the growth mindset to be more effective, we need to do things differently.

First of all, he says, ditch the fixed mentality. Don’t see the problem as being with the student, see it in how or what is being taught. Adjust the teaching. (I’ve also mentioned this before here.)

  • Test less for grades and more to inform teaching
  • Provide feedback that supports student learning
  • Avoid grouping students by ability
  • Ask questions that require deep thinking
  • Stop talking!

In fact, what he is saying is that we need to practice the growth mindset, not just preach it.

Teachers with a growth mindset appreciate the incremental

Which brings me back to being industrious, putting in the effort, and responding to Charli’s flash fiction challenge to “In 99 words (no more, no less) write an industrious story.

I’m thinking of putting in the effort as being industrious. I’m thinking of our impression of it and responses to it in others, particularly of the need to recognise where difficulties lie for students and how to praise to assist learning.

“Could do better”

The words blared from the page.

“Needs to try harder.”

Down through the years the judgement repeated.

“More effort required.”

No one tried to understand his unique way of seeing, his particular point of view.

“Doesn’t apply himself.”

He struggled to repeat their pointless words and perform their meaningless tasks.

“Needs to concentrate in class.”

Inside his head the images danced in brilliant choreography.

“He’ll never amount to anything.”

Outside their white noise words crackled a cacophony of dissonance.

Finally, school days done, they clamoured for the inspired works of the overnight success.

“Brilliant!” “Talented” “Exceptional!”

Thank you

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Phrasing praise

image courtesy of www.openclipart.org

image courtesy of http://www.openclipart.org

In response to a previous post the suggestion was made that I compile a list of “yet” phrases that teachers and parents could use to encourage children to develop a growth, as opposed to fixed, mindset.

Only since I have been blogging have I come across the work of Carol Dweck, a psychologist, who promotes a “yet” mindset. I am very much in favour of the “yet” way of thinking and have shared some thoughts here and here. However I am not yet ready to embrace the whole package.

I have just listened to Dweck’s book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” and it would be fair to say that I am struggling to accept all that she proposes with equal enthusiasm. In fact I find some of her suggestions rather challenging.

Previous posts, including the one mentioned above and others linked within it, have led to some very interesting and thought-provoking discussions about praise.  Some involved in the discussion were ready to embrace the idea of praising a child for effort rather than talent. Others could see no harm in bestowing any form of praise on their children and had not felt themselves limited by being praised for their cleverness.

Dweck suggests ways of encouraging a growth mindset by thinking about what was learned or what could be learned. She says that children should not think they are special just by being, and suggests that if a child scores 100% on a paper the response should be something like, “That was too easy. Sorry for wasting your time. Let’s find something more challenging so you can learn.”

In the book Dweck shares the experience of replacing her own fixed mindset with a growth mindset. She concedes it is difficult and that regressions can occur. She shares her personal disappointment when, after they had both struggled with a problem for some time, her husband arrived at a solution and she praised him with “Excellent!” or “Brilliant!”. She was crestfallen at her lapse; until her husband explained that he knew she meant that he had worked hard, put in the effort, tried alternatives and finally solved the problem.

(Note: I am explaining these scenarios in my words not hers. Usually when I have listened to an audiobook and wish to discuss it, I buy the paper or ebook version so that I can quote accurately. I haven’t done that this time as I’m not sure which version is the same, if any, as the audiobook. Throughout this post you are receiving my interpretation or impression. You will need to go to the source for greater detail and accuracy.)

While I agree that it is important for continual learning to be the goal, I’m not sure that I am opposed to some form of congratulations being given for achievement, as well as effort. Also I think children need to be accepted for who they are, loved and nurtured, without the need to be anything else. I’ve written about that here and here and discussed the use of affirmation songs such as Special as I can Be by Anne Infante. I know it is important to not overdo the “special” bit, but it is also important for them to feel comfortable with who they are.

Image courtesy of Anne

Image courtesy of Anne

Yes, they (we) do need to be encouraged to improve. But surely there is danger in feeling that results are always wanting, that they are never good enough. In fact, in the book, Dweck describes a girl who developed ulcers while striving to fulfill the high expectations she perceived her parents to hold. I think getting the balance right is the tricky bit. Encourage. Inspire. Motivate. But don’t demand, require, stress or, perhaps, judge.

Somewhere in my recent reading I came across the following “motivational” video, a clip from a movie of which I wasn’t aware. While I don’t wish to misrepresent Carol Dweck and suggest that she would “praise” this method, I think it could be taken as an interpretation (I hope extreme and incorrect) of her philosophy. Have a look and let me know what you think.

I felt extremely uncomfortable watching this video. I am not a sportsperson so I may not understand the culture of sports training but:

I felt sorry for the player, Brock, who was pushed to and beyond his “limits”. Sometimes that may be necessary but surely not just to “please” a coach; and this seems to be more about the needs of the coach than the player, “revenge” perhaps for thinking the other team was better prepared (I know it’s just a movie). I was worried that the player was going to have a heart attack and die on the field. I was disappointed that none of his team members intervened to protect him from the bullying coach or to help him with his load. I would definitely find it difficult to work with a manager or coach like that.

While I do not wish to take away from Dweck’s philosophy, many of the examples in her book discuss the mindsets of winners, of champions. Surely not everyone can be a champion. And if you have to push yourself, as Brock did in the video, to do your best, then I’m not sure I want to do my best.

Some people have described me as a perfectionist. I have never accepted that label. I work hard to do the best job I can, but I also recognise when good enough is good enough. Working within the constraints of resources, including time, imposes limits. Is that a limiting fixed attitude? Maybe I need to work a little more on my growth mindset.

As for the suggestion of compiling a list of “yet” phrases, I don’t think I am quite ready to tackle that one yet. Besides, I think Dweck has done it herself!

Mindset explores Dweck’s philosophy more fully. There you can test your own mindset, read some suggestions for Parents, Teachers and Coaches (and other applications) and find out about Brainology, a program written by Dweck and Blackwell to “Motivate students to grow their minds”.

There is much to explore. I have given but a few snippets here. There is much more learning for me to do.

Thank you

Thank you for reading I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

The expectation of labels

 

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In some circles labels can be used as an attempt to define who you are, either to yourself or to others; for example the car you drive, the clothes you wear, the foods you eat, the technology you use, even the books you read. The use of labels can lead to stereotyping and expectations based upon particular characteristics while other, and equally salient, qualities specific to the individual are ignored.

Applying labels to children can serve similar purposes: to define and explain particular behaviours or characteristics. Labels can range from an informal “naughty” through to medical diagnoses such as ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) or ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder).

Whether the result of an informal observation or a professional assessment, labels can have a profound effect upon a child and family members. The label sets up expectations that may limit the way the child is viewed; so that only those characteristics specific to the label are noticed and responded to. The child is viewed as being “the label” rather than an individual who displays those particular behaviours or characteristics, at this moment.

People tend to see what they want to see and ignore evidence that doesn’t support their thinking. So if a child is labelled disruptive, it is the disruptive behaviour which is noticed and acted upon. Similar behaviour in a child not bearing the label may be overlooked or excused. While the focus is on one, usually negative or limiting, behaviour other positive characteristics and strengths may be ignored.

pygmalion effect

Unfortunately, once a label is applied it is often difficult to remove and it may be used as an excuse for a child’s failure to learn or progress; after all the “fault” is considered to be with the child, not with any methods used or not used. Sadly too, labels can be misapplied or not fully understood. This may accentuate differences that are non-existent or less serious than the label implies.

However not all effects are negative. There are many positive effects of labelling a child’s condition or behaviour; including:

  • increased opportunities for the child, family and teachers to receive support through funding of programs, assistance of trained personnel and professional development
  • enhanced understanding through discussions using a common language with specific meanings and applications
  • increased awareness in the community with further opportunities for advocacy as well as greater acceptance and tolerance
  • the development of programs aimed specifically to support individuals with the condition.

But are all labels negative? What about giftedness?

Previously on this blog there has been some discussion about praise and the effects of different types of praise. The discussions were initiated in response to The Examined Life by Stephen Grosz and can be found here and here. Grosz suggested that praising a child could cause a loss of competence. Why would you continue to try if you were already “the best”?

Claudia M. Mueller and Carol S. Dweck support the notion that Praise for Intelligence Can Undermine Children’s Motivation and Performance. They suggest that labels such as “smart”, “clever” and “intelligent” can be just as damaging as those with deficit connotations.

Dweck explains her ideas more fully in Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, my current audiobook “read”. I have previously mentioned Dweck’s theory of ‘yethere and here.

In the book Dweck talks about how praise creates mindset. If one is praised for being smart or clever, then one develops a fixed mindset: “I am smart. I can achieve because I am smart.” If effort is required then one is not smart. Those with a fixed mindset avoid challenges that might jeopardise the view of themselves as smart.

On the other hand, praise for effort encourages a ‘yet’ or growth mindset: if I try it again, try harder, try it a different way, then I will do better. “I can learn”. There is no risk of becoming ‘not clever’. A growth mindset recognises the importance of effort, persistence and motivation.

fixed - growth mindset

Dweck says “don’t praise the genius – praise the process”.

Giftedness” is a label that was once applied after achieving a high result on an intelligence test, and was just as sticky as any other: there for life.  Giftedness was considered stable and unchangeable. It is obvious that many “gifted” students could fall into the fixed mindset trap. Thanks to Dweck’s work on mindset, attitudes to IQ scores and the concept of “giftedness” are now changing.

Teachers with a growth mindset appreciate the incremental

Students can be encouraged to develop a growth mindset by learning about how the brain works. When they understand that labels aren’t fixed and that learning can be improved, they will become more confident and may find more enjoyment in some of the challenges that school offers. Encouraging students to recognise how they view themselves as learners and to substitute “growth” for “fixed” thinking will have a remarkable effect upon their confidence and success.

Encouraging this growth mindset may be one way we can look out for each other, one way of “getting your back”.

To write a story (in 99 words, no more no less) about a character who is called to have the back of another was the challenge set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch this week. In her post Charli is talking about labels of another kind, labels that can be just as damaging or just as useful. She talks about having another’s back, being there to offer support when needed.  A parent, a teacher, a friend can be there at any time to offer support for a learner on their path to discovery. My response captures one such moment.

Growth: a mindset

Marnie propped her head on one hand while the pencil in the other faintly scratched the paper. She hoped it wasn’t too obvious that she didn’t get it. But she didn’t get it. She didn’t get last year, or the year before. Why should she get it now? What was the point? Her brain just didn’t work that way. She was dumb. They had always said she was dumb. No point in trying.

Then the teacher was there, encouraging, supporting, accepting. “Let me help you,” she said. “You can do this. Let’s break it down into steps. First …”

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post or flash fiction.