Is “Have a Growth Mindset” the New “Just Say No”
I’ve been interested in the ideas surrounding the growth mindset prior to it being coined as such by Carol Dweck. As part of my studying Education Psychology as part of my Doctoral studies, I delved into studying attribution theory. Attribution theory provides a foundation to the ideas connected to a growth mindset. As such, I have been thrilled about the press it’s getting and I have facilitated several workshops for educators on the growth mindset – see The Education with a Growth Mindset: A Professional Development Workshop.
With all of that said, I am also concerned about the fad of the growth mindset. Bulletin boards, classroom exercises, and catch phrases about the growth mindset are being promoted in lots of school settings.
It is understandable that some may be skeptical of this years buzz phrase. Despite being debunked as pseudo-science, the scars of brain gym and learning styles are still felt in classrooms around the country. Unfortunately, pseudoscience still wastes the time of many, in the form of right brain v left brain myth. So where does Growth Mindset sit within all this? Is it the latest fad or is it something we should all be embracing? (Growth Mindset: The Latest Fad)
Carol Dweck’s expresses some concerns about integrating the growth mindset into educational settings:
A lot of teachers are saying ‘yes I have a growth mindset’, without doing the work and without making a journey to deeply understand it and to know how to apply it. Even some teachers who genuinely have a growth mindset aren’t understanding how to apply it properly. They are just telling kids to try hard: which I call nagging, not growth mindset. Or they are just saying ‘hey kids, have a growth mindset’.(Carol Dweck says mindset is not ‘a tool to make children feel good’)
The faddish or pop culture version of the growth mindset is emerging as: “Have a Growth Mindset.” This smacks of the “Just So No” campaign of the Reagan era. Catch phrases about a growth mindset will have as much effect on actually developing a growth mindset as just saying no did on curbing drug use.
I mirror Dweck’s concern about educators and learners needing to do the work required to develop a growth mindset. It is a deeply reflective process requiring that this process occur often and over time.
I developed the following graphic as a reflective tool for my college students to assess the amount of effort and work they put into individual assignments:
Similar tools can be used with elementary and high school learners as well as by educators themselves so they can (1) assess amount of effort put forth for learning tasks, (2) make personal judgements if this was okay (learner agency), and (3) learn where and how they are engaging in fixed or failure mindset attitudes and behaviors. These tools can include reflective blogs, questions for discussion (like the ones included in my graphic), and personal assessments. Again, this is not a one time occurrence but a process that needs to occur over time.
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