Tag Archives: growth mindset

Is contentment compatible with a growth mindset?

I am quite a fan of the growth ‘not yet’ mindset which focuses on a belief in the ability to do and achieve more through persistence and hard work. I have previously written about this mindset in What do you have in mind? and in The power of not yet.

I wonder how compatible a growth mindset is with a complacency or acceptance of the way things are; a “This is it. I can’t do anything about it.” attitude.

When I think of contentment, I think of serenity, tranquillity, a feeling of peace and acceptance. I think of it as a positive state of mind. The dictionary defines it as:

Does this imply that there is no wish for things to be different?

I often talk about the importance of imagination and creativity to inspiring innovation and invention. But do they also require a certain degree of disequilibrium or discontent with the way things are? Is it necessary to find fault with something in order to improve upon it? How many gadgets do you use regularly, accepting their imperfections without a thought of how they might be improved? It is not necessary to have the ability to improve them in order to imagine how they might be improved.

A fun thing to do with children is to get them to think of an easier or more enjoyable way of conducting a routine activity. How about an alternative to the traditional, in Australia anyway, emu parade which has children criss-crossing the school grounds, bobbing up and down to pick up rubbish? How about something to carry their heavy back-packs home? Or something to do their homework? (Oh, that’s right, they’ve already invented parents for that!)  I’m sure children, and you, can imagine far more exciting improvements.

Imagination is the driver of innovation and change. But it also requires action. It is the action that gets us into the growth mindset; perseverance, hard work and repeated attempts. As Edison is oft quoted,

 “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

He also said,

“To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.”

I wonder how my friend Pauline King The Contented Crafter would respond to my title question. While I know she has reached a certain stage of contentment in her life, I also know that she strives to better her craft, and does what she can to make the world a better place. How much need for change or improvement can contentment tolerate?

Charli Mills of the Carrot Ranch and her flash fiction challenge to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about feeling content  got me wondering about this. Charli talked about moments of contentment sprinkled among frustrating events and dreams of change.

It helped me realise that, while they appear to be in contradiction, we need a little of both. We need to be happy with who we are, what we have, and what we have achieved; while at the same time, we need to be aware of what can and should be improved, and some strategies for action. Questioning is important to stimulate imagination, and when paired with creative thinking, innovation can occur. We need the inspiration of just one forward-thinker to lead us into the future.

The same balance between contentment and growth can be seen in children’s play. I have used it as my response to Charli’s challenge. I hope you enjoy it.

Purpose in play

They worked furiously as if with one mind; digging, piling, shaping, smoothing the sand.  As if on cue, two began to tunnel through from opposite sides, meeting in the middle. Others carved into the surface, forming window-like shapes. Sticks, leaves, and other found objects adorned the structure. Then, simultaneously, the work stopped. They glowed with collective admiration. But Than was not yet content. Something was missing. He swooped on a long twig and stuck it into the top, antenna-like. “For communicating with the mother ship,” he declared. Soon they were all feverishly adding other improvements to their alien craft.

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You’re not allowed!

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How many of these did you hear when you were a child?

  • You’re too small
  • You’re too big
  • You’re too young
  • You’re too old
  • It’s too far
  • It costs too much
  • It’s too dangerous
  • Girls don’t do that
  • Boys don’t do that
  • It’s too …

Sometimes it was difficult to find an activity that, like Baby Bear’s bed, was just right. Oftentimes it was only ‘just right’ in the eyes someone wielding the power; and not always in the eyes of the one wishing to have, do, go, or be. Setting limits is often easier than chasing possibilities.

starr-cline-creativity

Many years ago I read What Would Happen If I Said Yes?… A Guide to Creativity for Parents and Teachers by Starr Cline.  Cline writes about creativity, emotional intelligence, giftedness, intelligences, diversity, and the power of “Yes”. On her website, she makes this statement:

“After years of observation and research, I have drawn the following conclusions:

  • Everyone has the ability to create.
  • The external environment is critical in the development of one’s potential, whether it be in mathematics, language, the arts, etc.
  • Individuals may have one or more areas in which they excel
  • IQ scores do not reflect specific talents or abilities
  • Creativity begins diminishing at about third grade”

I’m inclined to agree, and feel especially sad about the last point she makes.

What Would Happen If I Said Yes? challenged me to think about ways in which I could parent (and teach) more positively and encourage, rather than inhibit, creativity; encourage a willingness to try new things; and to avoid placing unnecessary limitations upon others and myself. I can’t say I was entirely successful, but I did make some gains.

In the book, Cline suggests that you “STOP every time you are about to say no. THINK about what might happen if you said yes!”  Consider the worst scenario that could occur if you said yes, and whether it would be really that bad, or even likely.

She says to consider why you may say No.

“Is it because …

You don’t want to be bothered

It wasn’t your idea

It’s a habit

Someone treated you that way

It makes you feel powerful”

She reminds that the messages saying “No” often sends are:

“Your idea is stupid

You are stupid

You’re not capable

You’re not worth it.”

In the long term, are these negative messages more important than a temporary inconvenience, or than the benefits that would accrue from positive responses?

But don’t get me wrong. Cline doesn’t suggest you just say “Yes” to everything. She says that sometimes you may need to come up with a creative way of saying no. She provides many ways of doing so in her book, which I recommend as a great read for both parents and teachers.

Even as adults we can find ourselves in situations where certain things are not allowed and rules are imposed, such as in the workplace or in clubs and other organisations.

Sometimes the things we are not allowed to do are self-imposed limits; we may not allow ourselves to do things because:

  • It’s scary
  • It’s unfamiliar
  • We feel uncomfortable
  • We don’t know anybody there
  • It costs too much

camping-1289930_1920

Sometimes, as I explained about my attitude to camping in a previous post Around the campfire, we make choices and find ways of justifying our decisions, at least to ourselves if not to anyone else. There are many reasons I choose to avoid camping, many other things I’d prefer to do, and I don’t often consider myself to be missing out.

Although I can appreciate camping’s appeal to others, it was only when I read a late comment by Bruce Mitchell that I began to consider some of the wonders, including Antarctica, I had missed. Maybe I’ll be more adventurous next time round!

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills has challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about something or someone not allowed

In her post, Charli speaks of many injustices, including the rules that say who is and is not allowed to vote in elections in the United States. The rules affect many, for many different reasons (or petty excuses based on power) and tend to be divisive rather than inclusive.

charli-mills-gift

Charli says that,

“The greatest gift you can give is to allow another. Allow someone else to listen to their favorite music. Allow someone else to tell you their story. Allow someone to connect to you even if you feel harried. Smile back, nod, acknowledge, empathize. Be loving. Some among us have denials you can’t see stamped upon their countenances because of circumstances.”

While deciding what we will or will not allow our children to do may seem trivial in comparison, surely bringing up our younger generations to be confident, independent, responsible, and accepting of others, allowing them to join in; creating an inclusive society, is something to strive towards. Perhaps if we allow our children, they will allow others.

For my response to Charli’s flash, I’ve gone back to childhood. Where else? I hope you enjoy it.

Not allowed

She knew they were in there. She heard their chatter. Her knocks began timidly, then louder. The room hushed. There was rustling, then padding feet. She waited. The door opened a peek. Her loving sister’s smiling face appeared, then contorted unrecognisably.

“You’re not allowed!” the monster screeched, and slammed the door.

She froze – obliterated, erased, smashed to smithereens. She was nowhere, nothing. Why? What had she done?

She could only shrug when Mum asked why she wasn’t playing with her sister.

Later, at dinner, she viewed her sister’s sweet smiles cautiously. Was she real? When would the monster reappear?

thank-you-1200x757

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Scary monsters

This week at Carrot Ranch Communications Charli Mills has challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a monster story.  Being an early childhood teacher I think immediately of picture books. Two of my favourites are The Gruffalo, written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler, and The Monster at the End of this Book , written by Jon Stone and illustrated by Michael Smollin.

The Gruffalo

The Gruffalo is as fearsome as any monster you are likely to meet with its “terrible tusks, and terrible claws, And terrible teeth in his terrible jaws”; “a poisonous wart at the end of his nose” and “purple prickles all over his back”. The quick witted mouse, who imagines the Gruffalo into storybook “reality”, must find a way of ridding himself of the monster’s inherent danger and once again uses his ingenuity to escape.

I’m not sure if it was Donaldson’s intention, but I think this is a great analogy for the monsters we create for ourselves such as self-doubt, unrealistic expectations, and (you can add your own monster here). Not that I’d be sharing that thought with young children.

In this video Axel Scheffler explains his concept of the Gruffalo and even hints, a couple of times, that he too may be troubled by that all too common of personal monsters, self-doubt.

Monster at the end of this book

Throughout The Monster at the end of this Book Grover, from Sesame Street, pleads with the reader to not turn the page as there is a monster at the end of the book. You could almost say he is immobilised by this fear, or that he tries to immobilise the reader. Of course it is a lot of fun and provides much laughter. When we (reader and Grover) do get to the end of the book, he is rather embarrassed to find that he, “lovable, furry, old Grover” is the Monster. He tries to assure us that we, and not he, were the scared ones.

Of course Grover wasn’t the monster only at the end of the book. He was always the “lovable, furry” harmless monster. It was his fear that was the real monster. How often are we immobilised by our fear, and how often when we take that jump despite it, do we find our fears to be groundless? Sometimes I think, or is it only me, we are our own worst monsters setting ourselves impossible targets with too-high expectations that lead us only to disappointment if we don’t achieve them.

But if we view ourselves as works in progress, in the process of working out where we want to be and how to get there, we can find contentment in what we achieve along the way, in where we are and how far we have come, rather than ignoring those milestones and looking only at how much further we must (in our own minds) go.

It is all too easy to contribute to the development of children’s personal monsters by doing to them what we do to ourselves: setting unrealistic targets, expecting too much, insisting on error-free work, measuring them against external benchmarks … To avoid this, we need to view them also as works in progress and encourage them, through a growth mindset, to reach their own milestones and goals in the time that is right for them.

Like the mindset of the mouse in The Gruffalo who was able to think on his feet and overcome the obstacles, or that of Grover who realised there was really nothing to be worried about at all.

We need to be not afraid of the monsters under the bed or in the cupboard, most of which we have created in our imaginations and stuffed there, sometimes with the assistance of others, allowing them to multiply like wire coat hangers until there is no room left for anything good. I have taken the theme of internal monsters for my response to Charli’s challenge.

Open, close them, open anew

The picture was clear. Taken with wide open shutters and long exposure, then developed in black and white for extra clarity, the result was undeniable and exactly what would be expected.

“You’ll never amount to anything.”

“That’s rubbish.”

“Pathetic.”

“You’re always the troublemaker.”

“Because I said.”

“Shut up!”

“Stop asking questions.”

An existence devoid of value was drilled with reminders hurled unrelentingly from birth. Well-schooled in self-loathing, the lessons were regurgitated without effort or question. The monsters without had created the monster within. How could one escape from what was recognised only as truth?

And now for something a little lighter:

The Monster Mash

Thank you

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Are we finished?

I am a work in progress. I reflect on the past, predict the future, and live in the present moment. Nearly everything I do is a work in progress. Some things just make more progress than others!

Over the past few years I have been preparing resources for my readilearn website. It’s slow going, slower than I expected, but I’m getting … somewhere. Even when the website launches it will be a work in progress as I update old and add new resources.

Launching soon - readilearn2

In a flurry of activity, with the intention of completing additional resources as development of the website nears completion, I experimented with making a product promotional video. My intention is to make a number of these, possibly explaining the use of each interactive resource. Doing so is far more time consuming that I had expected.

Below is my first attempt. But please don’t let that word “first” mislead you into mistakenly thinking it was my only attempt. I lost count of the number of takes and couldn’t believe how difficult it was to utter just a few short sentences. While I am sharing it, please consider it a work in progress. Making promotional videos for my products is something I need much more practice with.

My purpose in sharing the video is to illustrate the importance of being a lifelong learner, which involves a combination of persistence, resilience and confidence, including:

  • a willingness to make mistakes and repeated attempts
  • a growth mindset without an expectation of immediate success
  • confidence to say “I haven’t got it yet, but I’m working on it”
  • belief in the ability to succeed, either independently or with support
  • an ability to adjust future attempts according to feedback provided from the past.

I learned a lot in making this video, perhaps more about what doesn’t work than what does. But eliminating what doesn’t work is crucial in finding out what does. For example, I learned after repeated attempts on both, that selfie videos recorded with phone or iPad just weren’t going to be good enough. I learned that neither of the software programs for making videos I owned would allow me to achieve what I wanted on its own. I needed to combine recordings from each. After many trials I finally made something that at least has the semblance of an attempt.

Included in my passion for learning is a passion for learning about learning: how we learn, why we learn and the conditions that contribute to our learning. I am fascinated by learning that occurs at all ages, but particularly during early childhood.

In the process of repeated attempts described above, I responded constantly to feedback provided, and adjusted each new attempt accordingly. Feedback is necessary for learning. But perhaps more important than the feedback is the response to it.

Hopeful of getting some other feedback, I shared the video with my family on the weekend. They made some helpful suggestions. But perhaps the most interesting feedback, about feedback, was that given by my four-year-old granddaughter, G2.

G2 watched the video with her mother and immediately wanted to play the game. I was delighted, of course, and opened the resource on the iPad for her to use. She had no trouble manipulating the objects to make the ice creams and quickly made a few combinations. When I asked if a mango with strawberry on the top was the same as, or different from, a strawberry with mango on the top, she confidently explained that they were different because “this one’s got the strawberry on the top and this one’s got the mango on the top”. She went on making combinations.

icecreams

© Norah Colvin

After she’d made about ten combinations she asked, “Are we finished yet?” I said, “We can finish whenever you like.” I wasn’t using it as a “teaching episode”, simply as something fun for her to do. She asked again, “But are we finished? You know –“ and she indicated for something to happen on the screen showing that we had finished.

Suddenly I realised that she was wanting feedback from the program to tell her that she was finished, that she was successful; perhaps some bells, whistles or fireworks. Because I designed the resource as an open-ended teaching episode, for use by a teacher with a class rather than by individual children, the resource does not have any inbuilt feedback. The feedback occurs in the discussion between teacher and students.

What I intended as a teaching episode became, for me, a learning episode; thinking and learning about feedback.

  • G2 expected to receive feedback about completion, and
  • she wished to continue until she received that feedback.

However,

  • she doesn’t’ require feedback about completion from all apps, for example, drawing programs: she decides when she is finished, and
  • during play she decides which activity she will take up and when she will finish.

G2 has a good balance of activities with home and Kindy; indoor and outdoor with a variety self-selected and self-directed imaginative play mixed with cooperative activities including reading, board games and screen time with a variety of apps.

With such variety she receives feedback from many sources including self and others, as well as from manipulation with real and electronic objects. I think her question “Are we finished yet?” was related to use of the specific device and type of activity (game to her), not indicative of a generalised need for feedback from outside.

But what of children who are more engaged with electronic games, have less time for self-directed activity, and fewer opportunities to engage with others? Will the need for feedback from an outside source overtake the ability to provide feedback for self? I hope not. I believe the abilities to self-monitor, self-regulate and self-determine to be extremely important to life-long learning. What do you think?

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. It is important to me! Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post.

 

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.