Monday, May 23, 2011

Growth Oriented Classes?

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

Having recently finished Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Dr. Carol Dweck, I am wondering about how to translate the personal challenge of reconfiguring one's mindset to a growth oriented mindset in classes?

For those who are not familiar with Dr. Dweck's work, allow me to briefly get you up to speed.

In her research, Dr. Dweck suggests that there are two basic mindsets that affect how people interpret information, process that feedback, and react according to these stimuli.  One mindset is "fixed."  The other is "growth."

The fixed mindset believes one's qualities are "set in stone."  This way of thinking drives people to prove themselves over and over again.  Because these qualities are fixed, there is no room for to get better and, therefore, set-backs or failures are met with a high degree of depression and anxiety as one tries to align the self-perception with the failure to produce or achieve at a desired level.

The growth mindset is "based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts."  Accepting that one can improve with hard work and focus, allows set-backs to become learning moments and opportunities for future improvement.  Self-worth is more closely associated with the effort put into a challenge rather than the actual results of the challenge.

More information concerning mindsets and the computer based training tool, Brainology, can be found at the Mindset website and at the Brainology website.

Now, back to my initial question.  How can we translate what appears to be a personal transformation from a fixed to growth mindset in a person to a growth oriented class?

Here are a few suggestions:
  1. Look at how you mark grades and provide feedback.  How much does effort count?
  2. Examine your written or verbal comments with students and families.  Are you fixated on grades or learning?
  3. When you give feedback, do you recognize growth and encourage effort?
  4. Is your feedback genuine?  If the work is not strong and the effort not up to expectations, are you honest?  Remember, you can deliver difficult news well if you avoid making judgement statements and focus on the process and how you can help.
  5. Do you example a growth mindset in class?
  6. Are the goals for the course clearly outlined, communicated, and supported by your instruction?
  7. Do you give students opportunities to grow in the class?  Do you associate their shortcomings as an attack on your value as a teacher, mentor, and leader or as an opportunity to do demonstrate the benefits of hard, smart, and focused work?
If you or your school has benefited from Dr. Dweck's work, please let me know.  I am very interested in how that happened and what was done to make it a success at your school.
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