Establishing a Growth Mindset for the New Year
by Vicki So, Rubicon International
Me: I hate running. I’m just not a running type of person. My husband once described me as “sedentary.” He gave me a FitBit as a birthday present, and signed me up for 5K races (without my permission). He shares running books with me and quotes, “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” As a non-runner, this quote makes me want to cause him pain and suffering.
Does this sound oddly familiar?
Student: I hate math. I’m just not a math type of person. Grown-ups describe me as a “hands-on” or “visual” learner. They give me counting blocks, calculators, workbooks, and sign me up for tutoring (without my permission). They point to posters that say “No whining”. As a non-math person, I can’t help but get frustrated, overwhelmed, and give up easily.
Carol Dweck is a Stanford University psychologist and researcher on Mindset. Growth Mindset is the belief that any ability can be further developed through hard work, passion, and resilience. Fixed Mindset is the belief that basic qualities like intelligence or talent are naturally-fixed traits, which may cause even the most gifted and talented to plateau early or never reach full potential. Consider Dweck’s research that was featured in the New York Magazine, “How Not To Talk To Your Kids: The Inverse Power of Praise”
Since Thomas could walk, he has heard constantly that he’s smart. Not just from his parents but from any adult who has come in contact with this precocious child. When he applied to [P.S. 334, the Anderson School on West 84th] for kindergarten, his intelligence was statistically confirmed… But as Thomas has progressed through school, this self-awareness that he’s smart hasn’t always translated into fearless confidence when attacking his schoolwork. In fact, Thomas’s father noticed just the opposite. “Thomas didn’t want to try things he wouldn’t be successful at,” his father says. “Some things came very quickly to him, but when they didn’t, he gave up almost immediately, concluding, ‘I’m not good at this.’ ” With no more than a glance, Thomas was dividing the world into two—things he was naturally good at and things he wasn’t.
Moreover, former NYC math teacher and current University of Pennsylvania psychologistAngela Duckworth received the $650,000 MacArthur “Genius Grant” to pursue similar research. Duckworth’s TED Talk “The Key to Success? Grit” has over 5 million views: “…one characteristic emerged as a significant predictor of success. And it wasn’t social intelligence. It wasn’t good looks, physical health, and it wasn’t I.Q. It was grit. Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina… Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”
While I agree with the overall premise, I’m left wondering where to even begin: How do I help students “stretch” out of the comfort zone and move to “where the magic happens and confidence grows”? How do I avoid hitting the panic zone?
This new year, consider the following ways to stretch your thinking:
- I hate _____________.
- I’m just not a _____________ person.
- I’m really good at _____________.
- I’m willing to try.
- Will _____________ allow me to grow?
- How can I improve in _____________?
- Smart, Cute, Great, Fast
- Best, Pretty, Good, Quick, Clever, Beautiful
- Intelligent, Right, Amazing, The best
- Better than _________ (another person)
- Wow! Look at that!
- Tell me about it. Show me more. How did you do that? How do you feel about it? How did you figure that out?
- That looks like it took a lot of effort. How many ways did you try it? What do you plan to do next?
- Extrinsic rewards, sticker charts, grades
- Intrinsic fulfillment, rise to the challenge, take risks and learn!
- Set goals
- Set SMART Goals and daily routines that reflect on progress