Even though I’ve switched middle schools a colleague in my former building and I continue to commiserate on the implementation of Carol Dweck’s growth mindset research. Nurturing a growth mindset is a daunting task. It requires creating and sustaining the conditions for it with multiple learning opportunities, feedback that’s timely (and implemented!), and frequent formative assessments.
What my colleague and I have both feared, and Dweck too, is that growth mindset has been reduced to the grit mentality of telling the students to work harder.
A growth mindset isn’t just about effort. Perhaps the most common misconception is simply equating the growth mindset with effort. Certainly, effort is key for students’ achievement, but it’s not the only thing. Students need to try new strategies and seek input from others when they’re stuck. They need this repertoire of approaches—not just sheer effort—to learn and improve.
Could this be a reason why the growth mindset effect size is only 0.19? Hattie thinks teachers treat their students with a fixed mindset. Is focusing our attention on effort a fixed mindset?
Now I wonder, should we be asking a different set of questions?
I am so conflicted right now I’m putting mindset in the back of my mind. Instead my focus is on abundance.
The biggest gift of abundance I can give students is patience. I have to remember they are children. They don’t share the same enthusiasm for learning as I do. Or worse, they’ve quit on themselves because of a self-concept they’ve developed. That patience will also serve me well when students learn implementing feedback is a requirement, not an option.
I can also give an abundance of learning opportunities that weave the concrete, representational, and abstract. For example, when re-teaching estimating percent of a number several students got the concept when I introduced a bar model. In fact one said, “Can I do this on the test?” Of course.
One final gift of abundance is continuous self-reflection. We put students on a treadmill and never give them time to step off and check their heart rate. How can they take ownership of their learning when we don’t give them time to reflect on the learning process?