As Henry Ford once said. 'If you think you can or you think you can't - you're both right.'
Recent research by Stanford Professor Carol Dweck and her colleagues , published in her book ,'Mindset: The New Psychology of Success', recommends that students need to become aware of how their brains work.
- That we teach our students to think of their brains as a muscle that strengthens with use forming new connections every time they learn.This certainly fits in with those who hold a constructivist view of learning.
- That we teach students appropriate study skills and convey to them that by using these methods it will help their brains learn better.
- That we should discourage using labels ( and streaming) that convey to students that their intelligence is fixed.
- That we should encourage students to appreciate that there is wide range of ways of being intelligent - schools that are aware of Howard Gardner's research on multiple intelligences will be aware of this. Schools that focus on narrow literacy and numeracy targets will be giving students the wrong message.
- Teachers ought to focus more on student's effort, strategies and progress rather than praising their talent or intelligence . Students need to see mistakes as positive rather that negative events - something to learn from and not to fear making
- Most of all teachers need to give students relevant challenging work that students see as fun.
Everybody ( including teachers) should be seen as capable of growth - that everyone has their own mix of strengths and weaknesses. Everyone should be rewarded for their love of learning ( a phrase originally in our NZ draft curriculum but removed - to hard to measure?). All learners should be rewarded for making an effort and for asking for help.
This brain friendly teaching also requires that teachers learn to 'do fewer things well' so as to allow students to value the need to learn in depth. And it requires projects that are open ended, even messy, to match the kind of learning that brains are stimulated by in 'real life'.
If we take this advice then, Dweck believes, we will change the metal model of our students ( and their teachers) and allow students' brains to learn better, learn more, and make more connections.
This is the kind of learning behavior we will need for a creative era.