Growth Mindset: Students, Parents, Teachers, Systems - Steve Barkley

Growth Mindset: Students, Parents, Teachers, Systems

I recently revisited Carol Dweck’s work with growth and fixed mindsets as I was preparing a presentation for parents at an international school in Portugal. My workshop was dealing with the value of students investing increased effort and perseverance in learning. I wanted to gain parents’ support for teachers’ practices that asked students to stretch and allowed for students to struggle.

My search for a video to share with the parents lead to this great clip that illustrates the results of a study Dweck conducted. Giving students brief praise for “being smart” or “working hard” had a dramatic impact on their future decisions about what tasks they wanted to tackle and how they performed on challenging work.

The parents were intrigued and became conscious of how simple responses to their child‘s successes could have longer term impacts. What’s extra intriguing is that the video clip was produce by Trevor Ragan for basketball coaches, and now a new website called TrainUgly: Train Ugly is the marriage of two concrete foundations of learning: motor learning and growth mindset. We’re going to dive into the science and share these incredibly important principles with you. From there we’ll work together to put these principles into action.

Visiting the Trainugly site, I found this warning offered to coaches who decided to engage in the process:

Applying these principles to practice will create a little chaos, confusion, and ugliness. But they will also help to develop better, more well rounded players who are prepared to perform when it matters most, in a game

I love it! It sounds like what any educational leader, instructional coach, and growth oriented teacher can expect…some ugliness.

A blog on Edudemic titled,  Why the Growth Mindset is the Only Way to Learn,  stated that a fixed mindset nurtures a fundamental insecurity and  crushes resilience so that it is a struggle to overcome setbacks of any kind.

I see first-hand the need to develop growth mindsets among teachers whenever I am working with a school or district looking to push for higher student achievement and success than they feel the existing practices can produce. Teachers get excited about how learning could be increased if students were not so focused on grades or the community so focused on test scores, but the effort to change has the brakes put on as soon as someone announces, ” The parents won’t let us!”

My first reminder to folks at that time is to ask them to remember that the parents of tomorrow are in our classrooms today. If we are not willing to struggle with the chaos and ugliness as parents and community learn new strategies for learning success, the next generation of teachers will be facing the same resistance.

The Edudemic blog offers these pointers for building and supporting a growth mindset:

Find peers–  Having a support community is the single most effective supplement to the learning process. Collaboration maintains focus, speeds up learning, and sustains interests. No matter what it is you’re pursuing, find a group or a mentor for it.

Take Your Ego Out of Learning– When you find yourself thinking “I’ll never get this right” or “I’m just not good at this”, combat it by actively affirming for yourself that failure is okay and the process is what is important.

Give Up Perfectionism – Humans aren’t perfect and neither is the process of learning. You’ll experience winding courses, make many mistakes, and do bad work whenever you set yourself to learn. Just aim for doing better each time and excellence will find you all by itself.

Learn to Enjoy Being Lousy–  Giving up perfectionism and an obsession with outcome, you’re left free to enjoy things just because you’re doing them!  The growth mindset allows people to value what they’re doing regardless of the outcome.

David Hochheiser writing in Edutopia, Growth Mindset: A Driving Philosophy, Not Just a Tool,  identified five growth mindset practices:

Being humble enough to accept that there are things about ourselves and our practices that can improve.

Becoming part of professional teams that value constructive critique instead of criticism.

Treating setbacks as formative struggles within the learning process instead of summative failures.

Realizing the restrictive role that timelines can play in reaching high standards, and using foundational philosophies such as Universal Design for Learning (UDL) to map systems so that everyone’s growth is supported.

Create flexible grouping at all times so that nobody’s trapped in any one course level or particular type of work.

In what ways do you see that your educational leadership role as one of being a growth mindset coach?


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