Carol Dweck applies Growth Mindset to Issues of Growth Mindset

I’m never quite sure if it’s exclusive to the education field, or more extreme, but there is a very bad habit of latching on to ‘the latest new thing,’ demanding that it represents a magical simple wand to change the profession. Then, when simplistic representations of the concept or idea don’t deliver instant, easy payoff there’s a backlash and attention switches to attempts to tear down any validity in the idea or concept.

In recent years we’ve seen this happen with differentiation, at times with the emphasis on formative assessment, with the concepts related to Grit (Angela Duckworth) and very strongly in relation to Carol Dweck’s work on Growth Mindset.

So it’s very refreshing to hear this interview with carol Dweck, conducted by Times Education Supplement;

TES – Carol Dweck – On Growth Mindset Theory

To my mind, the real value that comes out of the interview is that Dweck’s work has caused masses of teachers to focus on the issues of student motivation and its impact on learning outcomes to an extent far greater than ever before. I believe it’s also lead to a far greater level of attention to the fact that what has to matter more is learning rather than teaching and that teaching is nothing if not evaluated on the basis of its impact on learning and the fulfillment of potential on the part of learners.

As educators, we work with the human mind. This is incredibly complex and will never lend itself to simplistic prescriptions. The nearest comparison is to look for a desire that simple formulaic approaches to leadership can create highly effective organisations. The human mind, human motivations and the dynamics of human interaction are incredibly complex. Therefore, it will always require maximum flexibility, conscious reflection and ability to calibrate responses. It is vital to be open and receptive to all evidence of what’s working and how and ready to continuously build a flexible tool kit that offers increasing levels of responses and refinements.

For any of us whose work involves working with other human beings, we can never get good enough. We have to relish the process of continually learning more, refining our skills and adding more skills to our ‘toolkit’ in order to give us more refined choices for the decisions we take when dealing with others. I believe Carol Dweck’s work is just such a new tool that is thoroughly worth having in the toolkit. It’s not a panacea, a magic bullet and we need to rebuff those who seek to write it off because it didn’t deliver instant gratification.

Education – Preserving the Closed Shop

Who can lead in the world of education? Well, here in India, as in most countries, who can be a school Principal is all wrapped up in all sorts of provisions relating to their academic qualifications. Have we now reached the time when we should really question and challenge the validity of this approach? Have the needs from educational leaders now evolved to the point where, like other professions, we should be ready to take leaders with the most appropriate skills from wherever we can find them (and regardless of how many certificates they have to PROVE they are a product of the old-paradigm education systems)?

These kinds of questions are brought in to stark focus as a result of a recent controversy in the US. This has come about because Mayor Bloomberg of New York has selected Ms Cathleen Black as Chancellor of the school system of the entire city of New York. The controversy is that, until now, Ms Black’s experience was in the publishing industry. Obviously, one of the points being made is that different industries and professions are far more receptive to senior people with transferable leadership skills in such things as ‘change management’ than the education profession.

Time Article

Somewhere along the way, I believe the resistance comes from education’s focus on ‘content’. A degree in a particular subject is seen in the context of its content – the body of knowledge that was ‘gone over’.

I believe that with the speed of change in today’s world leadership of the highest quality is at a premium. The skills – things like inspiring people, leading them towards a meaningful vision etc. are not narrowly specific to any one field.

Similar goes for teaching, as highlighted in the article. Closed shops in any industry or profession have always served to stifle innovation and progress, keep everything ‘cozy’ for those inside the profession at the cost of those who use the services.

We need the best, most committed teachers, with the most capable leaders – and it shouldn’t matter where they’re coming from or what their backgrounds.

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