Mindset by Carol Dweck is probably one of the best book I have read this year. It relies on practical examples to support a very simple theory. The theory in itself is quite straightforward as it looks at two approaches or possible mindsets which can define personal and professional philosophy.
The growth mindset is all about reflection and self-improvement whereas the fixed mindset is about proving that you are smart. This is underpinned by strong belief sytems about what being smart is really all about. The book provides many examples of both mindsets, how they can affect different areas of our lives and how the mindsets can be altered.
There is a chapter of particular interest to parents, teachers and coaches. It is both enlightening and terrifying as it stresses how our every word and action send messages to children. “It can be a fixed-mindset message that says: You have permanent traits and I am judging them. Or it can be a growth-mindset message that says: You are a developing person and I am interested in your development”
This different way to look at our actions also leads us to reflect on the way we give feedback to children as parents or teachers and on the way we praise them. A brilliant example is as follows “You learnt that so quickly! You’re so smart… You got an A without even studying ”. Depending on the child’s mindset this can be translated as : “If I don’t learn something quickly, I’m not smart….I’d better quit studying or they won’t think I’m brilliant.”
One of the strong messages is that praising for intelligence or talent rather than effort can switch children off difficult challenges. It can also make children lose their self-confidence as soon as anything is challenging or does not go the way they anticipated. However, I thought the examples of feedback felt slightly awkward e.g. “That homework was so long and involved. I really admire the way you concentrated and finished it” and it really made me think of strategies to provide effective growth feedback.
• Describe the effort and the process involved: strategies, effort or choices “you took on a challenging project” “you did research, you designed…, you wrote about” “you are going to learn so much from it”
• Give the idea that effort makes learning worthwhile: “Skills and achievement come through commitment and effort”
• Present tasks that are too easy as “a bit of a waste of time” and extension work as a way to provide real learning opportunities.
• Discuss how resilient and reflective learners get more out of their learning.
• Be tolerant of mistakes and do not aim to motivate children by sharing judgements about them “give them the respect and the coaching they need to develop”
• Provide constructive feedback focusing on specific aspect of the work that can be corrected
• Present topics in “growth framework”
• Be reflective and consider how you praise-working the “process praise” into our interactions is often NOT a natural reaction
I will be looking at our reward policy to ensure this is built into our practice as reading “Mindset” has made me realise how traditional praising sytems can really have the opposite effect to what is intended…