Carol Dweck introduced the concept that our beliefs about our own intelligence influence how much we learn and ultimately predict whether our intelligence will grow. It seems ironic that a simple belief can make such a difference, but throughout history and in our own personal experiences we have clearly seen how faith and belief influence so much of our behavior. Having a certain mindset can win or lose a battle before it even begins. Dweck observed that when children welcomed challenge and saw it as an opportunity to get better, they actually learned a lot and did improve. Children who saw the challenge as a test of their intelligence felt threatened by anything too challenging and avoided it, thus shutting down the opportunity to grow and improve. She labeled these beliefs regarding our own intelligence as the growth mindset and the fixed mindset. Growth mindset is believing that intelligence is pliable and can grow based on what we do with it. Fixed mindset is believing that our intelligence is something we are born with, we either have it or we don’t, and nothing can change that.
One can see that the mindset one adopts or is raised to believe will heavily influence one’s attitude toward effort, work, learning and thus shape the person’s entire life, becoming a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy.
As a teacher I intend to promote the growth mindset within my classes by first of all teaching the concept. Students have probably never heard of the growth mindset or the fixed mindset and it would be important for them to be able to identify which one they currently have. It is especially important with a foreign language since it is a difficult skill to master and a lot of students become discouraged or overly critical of themselves and their progress. One can never know all there is to know about a language and so having the growth mindset is paramount since there will always be more to learn. Students who have the growth mindset and are not afraid to tackle the workload and to commit to learning will obviously have much better results than those who just tell me “I’m just not good at French” and do the bare minimum, creating that self-fulfilling prophecy of not being good at it because they aren’t trying.
I will introduce the concept through the RSA video, a 10 minute clip from one of Dr. Dweck’s speeches which goes over the concept briefly as well as the results of their studies. I will then have students write an introspective journal entry (in English) answering the following three questions:
- State if you agree or disagree with the following statement and then explain your answer: No matter who you are, you can significantly change your intelligence level.
- Looking at the graphic by Nigel Holmes, which behavior do you most often engage in each of the 5 categories?
- If your intelligence can be developed, and you cannot fail if you continue to try, what are some areas that you most want to grow your intelligence in this year?
After introducing the concept and having the students self-analyze and discuss their beliefs, it is something that I will reiterate every time we need to tackle something new. I will have a giant “YET” poster on my wall in English and in French to remind them that learning is a work in progress and just because they can’t do something yet doesn’t mean that they won’t be able to in the future.
I also love the concept of NOT YET and this year, to show how much I believe in it, if any student receives a grade lower than a C (D or F) I will give them a NYET and allow them to try it again at any point when they feel ready during that marking period. This creates a headache with the grading for me (missing grades are always hardest to track down at the end of the marking period) but I believe it will speak volumes to the kids as well as remove a lot of stress over the grade. They have to show mastery of the skill, but if they don’t get it yet at the time of the first assessment, then they can take it again later on. If you miss the basket the first time you don’t give up, you simply take another shot. Keep shooting until you make it in! I might even make a sign with that on it also.
Finally I intend to praise the process, NOT the intelligence. Hard work is what I value and I want them to value it also. I will be liberal with my praise of the process and refrain from praising intelligence. I wish I had known this when my own children were young, but it is not too late to help them develop a growth mindset as well, and I can start with the praise aspect.
Thanks to Carol Dweck and her research into mind-sets, I can now help my students to embrace learning and live out the motto “Effort creates intelligence”.
See my initial post regarding the book Mindset here.
Dweck, C. S. (2016). Mindset: the new psychology of success. New York: Random House.
Holmes, N. (n.d.). Two Mindsets [Digital image]. Retrieved July 9, 2017, from http://www.megsonline.net/lee_meg3.pdf
RSA Animate: How to help every child fulfill their potential, (2015, December 15). Retrieved July 09, 2017, from https://youtu.be/Yl9TVbAal5s?list=PLHgX2FxczIyReFhcvOiPDQGKvzFJSHIjL