When a new idea comes along, educators can be just as guilty as any group of people for seeing it simplistically and as a holy grail. In recent years there have been few concepts that have made more waves (or been more abused) than Dr Carol Dweck’s concept of Mindsets.
So, it’s great to see a video presentation like this where she sets the record straight on some of the key issues. She also does an excellent job of reminding all how potentially significant this research is when treated with proper sense and in the full understanding that anything concerned with human nature will be inherently complex.
Firstly, this was never about a new way of putting labels on people, children or teachers. Whenever this has been done, it’s caused more harm than good. Too many teachers have felt the need to be very phony and workplace pressure has, at times, led teachers to pretend they matched up to the growth mindset, instead of really reflecting and thinking about what they could change in their teaching practice and communication with children to reflect more of a growth mindset approach. The plain, simple, honest reality as Dr Dweck makes clear – is that we’re all a mixture of the two mindsets and each one can be prevalent in different circumstances. I loved the idea that she’d picked up from a colleague of naming our fixed mindset part, making it easier to acknowledge, to own up and be honest about it (and when it tends to emerge or get stronger).
Second big issue – Mindset was never just simply about a simple equation with effort, grit, rigour or whatever other label we choose. This was very clear to me from reading Dr Dweck’s book. However, she acknowledges that too many teachers have made a simplistic connection and simply latched on to the idea that if they praise effort then they are “doing mindset”.
I loved her emphasis in the video on teachers and adults ‘walking their talk’ on growth mindset, especially when communicating with children and how this needs to reflect that this is not some simple, short term project, but a lifelong journey that’s never complete. She goes out of her way to emphasise that it should not be seen as a simplistic tool for ‘fixing’ children, or for boosting their scores in standardised tests.
The final thing that stood out for me was her ideas about using mindset as a perspective to look at whole school culture. This was an aspect that had occurred to me and that I had discussed off and on with colleagues over the last couple of years. I think it is a topic worthy of action research and closer, deeper exploration for how it can be used to strengthen whole schools and make them more empathic, shared learning spaces in which children don’t fear failure or experimentation – in fact where all community members celebrate and support efforts to innovate and try different strategies towards effective learning.
Here’s an article that reflects on Dr Dweck’s presentation and key thoughts;