This is a supplement to the interview with Katie Walton, which you can click on over to here.
Believe it or not, everyone thinks a little differently. It’s said that there’s a bit of a divide in the way humans approach tasks, obstacles, and life in general.
In the red corner, we have those who believe that all skills and talents are a product of genetics. That we are limited to the capabilities we start with and if we haven’t been blessed with the right foot of Beckham or the vocal tract of Beyonce… we’ve lucked out.
Professor Carol Dweck calls this belief ‘fixed mindset’.
In the blue corner, we have those who believe we can learn to do anything. Growth is a product of our own choices and behaviour. Anything and everything is possible with the right amount of grit, determination and action.
Professor Carol Dweck calls this belief ‘growth mindset’.
The piece I wrote about beliefs gives one explanation as to why we may find ourselves in either the red or blue corner. Of course, we’re likely to find ourselves somewhere in between, depending on the task or situation.
In her powerful book Mindset: How You Can Fulfil Your Potential, Dweck writes “Those with the growth mindset found success in doing their best, in learning and improving. And this is exactly what we find in the champions”. That makes sense. An easy example is… someone who practices vocal scales everyday is someone who is likely to be adopting the growth mindset. Regular purposeful practice… and you don’t want me to rant on about the benefits of regular purposeful practice. No really. You don’t. I become unnecessarily emotional.
For the most part, as Katie Walton mentions in our interview, growth mindset is best encouraged with the language we use. Either in self talk, or when talking to others. Do you say “I’ll be able to do that in a few months time” or “nah, that’s something other people do’. If it’s the latter you could be swaying slightly towards a fixed mindset.
When a child passes their maths exam, do you say “you worked so hard for that, and look how much it’s paid off” or “clever girl, well done for getting that A*… here, have an icecream”. Although everyone loves an ice-cream, once again, it’s said the latter may be feeding the wrong thoughts and belief system. What happens when the child doesn’t achieve the A* next time?
Imagine two people – Derek and Geoffrey*. Derek is passionate about overcoming obstacles. He loves the experience of learning and understands that failing is an important part of the process. Geoffrey prefers an easy run and will dodge or deflect tricky tasks. He’s always right and if he isn’t excelling, he figures he should probably stick with what he knows best. Who’s going to have the more fruitful life? Who’ll be happier? Who is more likely to experience more personal development?
*For some reason, the first names that came to mind. I’m not sure what that means.
Nike have always understood and promoted the growth mindset concept in their ads. This is a great example here…
In essence, growth mindset is about embracing the challenge, loving the process and enjoying the ride. It makes a hell of a lot of sense on paper, but in reality, it is so very easy for us to adopt beliefs that counter that. Especially when some of the things we need to do to reach the other side, may not be something that we enjoy too much.
I’m a massive fan of James Clear and his writings. In this article he affirms Dweck’s priciples by saying that “skill is something you can cultivate, not merely something you’re born with”. He also supports her perspective on reversing these thoughts, “You can become more creative, more intelligent, more athletic, more artistic, and more successful by focusing on the process, not the outcome”.
As teachers, we have the power to help our students grow in more ways than one. Amazingly, it can be instigated by uttering of the following nine simple words…
“I can see how hard you worked… you’re awesome”.