Thursday, November 19, 2015

Mindset Part 2: Effort & Learning

I recently came across the idea of effort in a blog post on the Mindset Works site. A key point of the article discusses a child's ability to grasp and evaluate effort.  The author believes some children may not have an understanding of what "effort" (as adults think of it) looks and feels like.  Such students may believe the job of getting the page filled in is enough - whether they "borrow" work from a neighbor, get answers from a peer, or fill things in with the purpose of getting the task done.  Other children may come from a more fixed mindset framework, avoiding a challenge, or giving up when something feels hard.

Perhaps the core problem for both children is knowing about what the author calls effective effort, which is both purposeful and targeted.  Some of the best examples of effective effort I can think of come from athletes and musicians. Their practice and effort is very directed; focusing on one small thing at a time - they analyze what went right and what wasn't quite right; attempt a new strategy at the point of error; and try again.  To illustrate this point, I found a quote from the Bulletproof Musician:
          Deliberate practice is a systematic and highly structured activity, which is, for lack           of a better words, scientific.  Instead of mindless trial and error, it is an active and thoughtful           process of experimentation with clear goals and hypotheses. 

Systematic, structured, trial and error vs. active and thoughtful, clear goals and hypothesis are words that gave me pause.  In my own life, when I take on that frame of reference, I feel more successful and the "mistake/error" feels more manageable. The Mindset Works Blog has an effective effort rubric, set up from the perspective of a fixed, mixed, and growth mindset.  Depending on your students' understanding and readiness, it can be a wonderful instructional tool.

As teachers, we have the opportunity to help our children develop a habit of the mind similar to a musician/athlete and to deepen their ability to self-reflect, while normalizing errors and learning about effective effort.  Coaching a child to identify what worked, what didn't, decide what to change, and its projected outcome has the potential to help our students find great satisfaction and joy on the path of lifelong learning.

If the idea of mindsets resonates with you, I encourage you to take a peek at Mindset Works Blog.  You can sign up to receive their newsletter and take advantage of the resources on their site for free.  Mindset Works  was co-founded by Carol Dweck; the source of information is sound and research-based.

Personal/Professional Growth:
The Mindset Works article on Effective Effort
Effective Effort Rubric
Mindset Works Blog
Resources for Teachers - Mindset Works
Targeted Practice - (NY Times article)
Growth Mindset Video (2 minutes)

Thursday, November 5, 2015

"Not Yet" - Reframing Mindsets for Teaching and Learning

When Carol Dweck's book about growth mindset came out in 2007, it was heralded as a must read for educators.  The "soundbite" of advice for teachers and parents involved praising effort (not intelligence).  The practice promised to help change a child's preconceived idea about their intelligence or skills - moving them from a "fixed" mindset to a "growth" mindset.  Her ideas made sense from my experience with young children who seemed to already know who the "smart kids" were in a class.  I remember talking with my own adult children about changing their parenting language from, "That's so smart," to comments such as, "You really stuck with that and worked hard."

Misconceptions and oversimplifications of the original work, have caused Dweck and her colleagues to revisit the idea of "growth mindset".  You can hear some of her new thinking in the 2014 Ted Talk as she talks about the power of adding, "Yet," or "Not yet," to feedback and the implications these small words have in leading our brains toward future thinking and a belief in self-improvement.

In an September 2015 article published in Education Week, Dweck talks of the complexities surrounding the topic.  She specifically addressed what has happened in the years since her original mindset book was published.  Two points stuck with me.  The first was reminding readers the true goal of effort is learning.  Dweck suggests adding, "Now let's talk about what you tried and what you might try next."  This aspect of coaching in a growth mindset approach helps children embrace struggles and setbacks as part of learning.

Another point of resonance for me was "everyone has a combination of both fixed and growth mindsets."   Maintaining a growth mindset means learning to pay attention to when self-talk comes from a fixed place.  Dweck's website offers specific steps and examples of thoughts emanating from a fixed mindset voice and how to practice countering the fixed message.

As role models for our students, deepening our understanding of Dweck's new thinking is worth our time and attention.  Reading about her revised thinking is a wonderful example of her own journey in the area of mindsets and lifelong learning.

Ideas for Classroom Application:
•Use the "growth mindset" side from Carol Dweck's chart below in helping children with their internal scripts.

•Take another peek at the video of a 2nd grade teacher helping her class understand that struggles, setbacks and justifying one's thinking is part of learning.

•A mindset visual for use with your students:
Image captured from:

Personal/Professional Growth:
•To read more about Dweck's work and/or take a mindset quiz, check out her Mindset website.
•Watch the 2014 TedTalk video.