The Importance of a Growth Mindset

Today's Agenda & A Look into Mindset


10:00 a.m.

Look into the two types of mindset.

  • Fixed mindset
  • Growth mindset
  • The advantages and disadvantages

10:20 a.m.

Ways to introduce, encourage, and maintain a growth mindset in our students.

  • Strategies to achieve growth mindset

11:00 a.m.

Break into grade-level groups to brainstorm ideas of encouraging growth mindset.

  • Discuss ways to do this as a grade-level and in individual classrooms
  • Groups will vote on their most influential ideas and present them

11:30 a.m.

Open discussion- perfect time to express any ideas and to ask questions.

  • Questions, comments, concerns
  • Quick summary of the morning and what should be taken away from the discussion
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Fixed vs. Growth

Fixed mindset: believing that your qualities are carved into stone (Dweck 6).
  • The problem with fixed~ it creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over again.

Example: Special, Superior, Entitled

"John McEnroe had a fixed mindset: He believed that talent was all. He did not love to learn. He did not thrive on challenges; what the going got rough, he often folded. As a result, by his own admission, he did not fulfill his potential… "Everything was about you…" If you're successful, you're better than other people. You get to abuse them and have them grovel. In the fixed mindset, this is what can pass for self-esteem" (Dweck 31). The fixed mindset can add so much unnecessary stress and unrealistic expectations for people. McEnroe's way of thinking made him lose his cool when he no longer was the best at his specific talent. The stress of not being the absolute best made him act extremely negatively towards the people around him.

(Underlines- not from book. Added for emphasis)

Growth mindset: believing that the hand you're dealt is just the starting point for development (Dweck 7).

  • The positivity of growth~ it sets the tone that basic qualities are things that you can cultivate through your efforts.

Example: Stretching Beyond the Possible

"Sometimes people with the growth mindset stretch themselves so far that they do the impossible." In this particular case, Christopher Reeve was thrown from a horse, and as a result, was paralyzed from the neck down and told that he would never move again. "Why couldn't he learn to move again? Why couldn't his brain once again give commands that his body would obey?" Reeves wouldn't accept that he was going to be paralyzed for the rest of his life, and applied the growth mindset- the hand you're dealt is just a starting point. "Five years later, Reeve started to regain movement… He was far from cured, but brain scans showed that his brain was once more sending signals to his body that the body was responding to" (Dweck 22).

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Recommendations for Developing a Growth Mindset in Children

  1. Avoiding judgement. "… every word and action can send a message… It can be a fixed-mindset message that says: You have permanent traits and I'm judging them. Or it can be a growth-mindset message that says: You are a developing person and I am interested in your development. It is remarkable how sensitive children are to these messages, and how concerned they are about them" (Dweck 173). By avoiding judgment, you can make a child feel more at ease. If someone feels that they are being judged, they may decide not to put effort into what they're doing, lose their ability to concentrate, or simply give up on the task.
  2. Sending the right messages. The story of Bruce, the new kindergarten student, and the interactions between him, his mother, and his teacher were very eye-opening. Bruce spoke like any young child does- asking a lot of questions and not necessarily watching the way he worded his questions. His mother immediately corrected him each time that he asked a question. "Next, Bruce spotted a broken fire engine. He picked it up and asked in a self-righteous tone, "Who broke this fire engine?" Again his mother rushed in: "What difference does it make to you who broke it? You don't know anyone here." But the teacher understood. "Toys are for playing. Sometimes they get broken. It happens." Again his question was answered: What happens to boys who break toys?" (Dweck 174). Unlike the teacher, Bruce's mother immediately shut him down and made it seem like Bruce did not deserve an explanation. This kind of negativity could have a great affect. If someone is constantly corrected, they may then choose not to voice their opinions, concerns, and questions to avoid judgement.
  3. Encouraging students to tackle challenges. The beginning of Chapter 3 gives a few examples of historically famous people that have tackled many challenges before creating the thing that they became known, and remember, for. The first example is of Thomas Edison, and how he had to work with "thirty assistants… often working around the clock" and how the invention of the lightbulb was "not one invention, but a whole network of time-consuming inventions each requiring one or more chemists, mathematicians, physicists, engineers, and glass-blowers" (Dweck 55). If Thomas Edison had not reached out for help, worked hard to overcome obstacles, and been extremely persistent, the invention of the lightbulb could have been put off for a long time. The only way that children will be able to learn and grow is through challenges. Our job is to give them time, assistance, and encouragement to help them feel supported.
  4. Preparing students to learn various subjects. A study showed that "only students with the fixed mindset showed the decline" when transitioning to junior high. If we are encouraging a growth mindset in the earliest years of learning, this may be avoidable. If every child in elementary school is encouraged to have a growth mindset, and generally does, the idea that one subject may be your only talent could be erased. Students tend to do worse in junior high because "the work gets much harder, the grading policies toughen up, the teaching becomes less personalized", so there are many more challenges (Dweck 57). If we set each child up with the idea that challenges are something to conquer, not to fear, and we encourage them to become interested in every subject during their early education, I believe that junior high students would not struggle as much. Although this recommendation may not visibly pay off until the later years of school, it is important to plant the seed that every subject has to be learned, and to try to enjoy, or try to conquer each one.
  5. Treat and motivate everyone equally. "With the right mindset and the right teaching, people are capable of a lot more than we think." In this story, Jamie Escalante went into Garfield High School, "one of the worst schools in Los Angeles", and "taught inner-city Hispanic students college-level calculus. With his growth mindset, he asked "How can I teach them?" not "Can I teach them?" and "How will they learn best? not "Can they learn?"" Jamie did not let the school's reputation affect how he went about his job there. He treated the students the same as he would treat any students, and used the same techniques to motivate them to learn. Treating students equally, motivating them as a whole, and keeping a positive attitude can work wonders in the classroom. "… he took them to the top of the national charts in math… most of the Garfield students earned test grades that were high enough to gain them college credits." Jamie's success is just further proof that "there's a lot of intelligence out there being wasted by underestimating students' potential to develop" (Dweck 64).
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Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed no hope at all. Dale Carnegie