Friday, October 01, 2010

Dweck's book a must for all teachers and leaders.


It is hard to avoid reading about Carol Dweck's work on the power of mindsets in learning. Business leaders and sports coaches use her ideas and so ought schools. It will be the most influential book on motivation. A book that with ideas to change the lives of students and their teachers.

I am writing this blog before I have fully absorbed the message of the book as I want to loan it to a young teacher . As a result of reading the book I have decided to start something I have been meaning to do for years. I now have the right mindset. Watch this space.

My advice - buy the book pronto. My copy cost NZ $29. Not bad for a mind changing book. 'Mindset The New Psychology Of Success' Published by Ballantine Books NY ISBN 978-0-345-47232-8

Carol Dweck is a Stanford University Psychologist and in her book Mindset she shares the ideas about learning she has been working on for decades. In her book she shows the power of people's beliefs that strongly effect what we want and whether we succeed. Beliefs ( 'mindsets') we are unaware of but which have a profound effects on our lives. An understanding of these beliefs have the power to unleash your potential and that of your students.

Dweck has written this book in a popular style which makes it available to anyone who picks it up.

Schools worldwide have problems with students who fail to learn and this book provides some real answers.

Dweck outlines the two mindsets.One she calls 'fixed' where students believe that their talent is 'fixed' from birth ( natural talents) and the 'growth mindset' which sees learning as a result of effort and practice. Dweck does not suggest that those with a 'growth' mindset can be anything but they do believe that a person's potential is unknown and that to develop it requires 'passion , toil and training'.

The real problem is that many people feel that those who succeed in any field do so because of natural talent. This is the 'fixed mindset'. The problem is that such people do not believe in effort and even see the need for it as weakness. And those who believe they cant do something see no point in trying.

My bet is that such people make up our so called 'achievement tail'. Helping struggling children change their limiting mindsets may be more profitable than obsessively focusing on literacy and numeracy standards.

Dweck writes that the 'fixed' mindsets can be changed and replaced with the more positive 'growth' mindset. Her book is full of practical ways to do just this.

'When you enter a mindset', she writes, 'you enter a new world'.

Dweck believes all students are born with an intense drive to learn and worries about what puts an end to this exuberant learning and why some children develop a limiting 'fixed' mindset.

It begins, she says, when students begin to evaluate themselves and, as a result, some become afraid of challenges - and this is further developed by parent who want their children to succeed. Such children end up by wanting to make sure they succeed and don't like taking risks; don't like to expose their deficiencies. And they don't like asking for help.

'Growth' mindset children, in contrast, see success in learning as stretching themselves, about becoming smarter, and are happy to ask for help.

'Fixed' mindset people do well when things are within their grasp. If 'fixed' mindset people think they cant do anything they don't try, avoid situations, find endless excuses, blame others, and don't ask for help. They don't want to to risk their identity. Perfectionist girls seem specially at risk in this respect.

It makes a big difference which mindset develops.

And the positive 'growth' mindset can be taught.

Dweck lists accomplished people who were considered to have little future potential including Charles Darwin and Elvis Presley. People with a 'growth' mindset know it takes time and effort for potential to flower. She also describes people who many think had a natural talent ( 'fixed') but whose success was determined by a 'growth' mindset including - Mohammed Ali and Michael Jordan.

Dweck suggests teachers do a simple survey of their students to see what mindset they hold and then to introduce ideas to change those with the limiting 'fixed' mindsets. Do they believe their intelligence was a fixed trait or or something they could develop?

She also describes a number of research situations where she demonstrates such changes. Students with the 'growth' mindsets allows people to love what they are doing and motivates them to try harder, practice and ask for help. Mistakes, or failures, are seen as learning opportunities not the end of the world. A 'growth' mindsets allows abilities to be cultivated.

Talent, or drive, with the right mindset, can help any learner produce amazing things. It is all about continually improving on ones personal best.

Talented or failing 'fixed ' mindset students fail when placed in new learning situations - 'growth' students enjoy the challenge. Even prodigies with gifts feed the gift with constant endless curiosity, practice effort and challenge seeking. All children , Dweck writes, have interests that can blossom into abilities and this includes those currently seen as 'low ability' or failing. No one know about negative ability labels like Maori and Pacifica group or woman when it comes to maths and science.

All students need teachers who preach and practice the 'growth' mindset. Such teachers focus on the idea that all children can develop their skills. 'Growth' orientated teachers and parents praise effort rather than ability or talent. Praising talent teaches students the 'fixed' mindset. Ability grouping and praising ability can have negative effects on learning.

We need to give all students the gift of the 'growth' mindset and in the process put students in charge of their own learning.

Many students will enjoy the stories in the book about the difference between the natural and effort orientated sports people. Their stories will help students appreciate the positive growth mindset and how sports people learn to cope with setbacks. Teachers will enjoy the differences between the 'fixed' and growth orientated coaches.

School leaders will enjoy the differences between the heroic talented leaders ( 'fixed') and the 'growth' orientated leaders and how they handle failure and staff development.

The most important chapters focus on teachers and parents and where do mindsets come from?

These chapters focus on the messages we give children - and that every word and action sends a message. Students are extremely sensitive to such messages. What we praise, or give feedback about, is vital and it needs to be focused on effort and future strategies to consider.

Consider also how children develop their attitudes towards maths, or art, or sport. Do they see it as a 'fixed' gift or something they can all do to some degree with effort and practice as they ought to? Consider how you would set about to change students' attitude towards maths, or art, or anything thay have closed their mind to.

'Dont judge. Teach.It's a learning process', Dweck writes.

All the stories Dweck shares are about how parents and teachers want the best for their children in the right way - by fostering their interests, growth and learning.

If teachers make explicit the importance of a 'growth ' mindset and encourage it in their students all students will succeed. The teacher's stance is all important. 'Growth' mindset teacher tell the truth and set about to help their students close the gap. Dweck's research shows it can be done even with students who at first don't seem to care.

Most interesting for teachers are the mindset lectures she gives her graduate students and the brain, or mindset workshops she gives younger students where students learn about positive mindsets and how to use them.

In just eight one hour sessions children's' minds, she shows, can be changed.

And she makes the point that change is not easy. It is hard to give up a 'fixed' mindset. Concrete plans are required not just good intentions. 'Will power', Dweck writes, 'is not just a thing you have or don't have. Will power needs help.'

It is all about seeing things in new way.

Every day presents you with chance to grow and to help the people you care about grow. Learners who take on board a 'growth' mindset become more alive, courageous and open.

Buy the book to really get Dweck's powerful message. The ideas in the book will resonate with the many creative teachers who really value developing in their students a positive learning identity. Students who are able to 'seek, use and create their own knowledge'. Students who will become 'confident life long learners'.

Get it now and share her ideas.


Anonymous said...

OK Bruce - just found a copy in the library so I'll have a read.

Anonymous said...

Great book.Easy to read with a simple but powerful message. Excellent for teachers, parents, leaders and coaches. Thanks for the review.

Anonymous said...

Rather than pushing doubtful standards on schools the govermnent ought to insist all schools understand the implications of Dweck's book.

Bruce Hammonds said...

If the Ministry could get away from their useless standards they could read Dweck and do some good for a change. I no longer belive in any Ministry officials - particularly Mary Chamberlain who speaks with a forked tongue. All too busy protecting their positions.