Incorporating A Growth Against Fixed Mindset In Education

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Good morning! I need you guys to shake that feeling of tiredness and give me your undivided attention. Don’t worry I will make it worth your while, just stay with me. I would like to start with a couple of statements, I want you to nod your head if you are familiar with these statements on a personal level. ‘ I’m either good at it, or I’m not’ ‘ There’s no point in trying if I’m going to fail’. Ok, how about these statements, ‘If I’m not good at something, I can always become better at it through practice’ or ‘Every failure I face is an opportunity for me to look at the situation in a whole light’. As a student, I can be honest with you guys and say that I’ve had more than my fair share of being overly stressed, emotionally drained because of the fear of failing and not being good at something. You must be wondering where I am going with this. Well, I am bringing to light these mindsets we may or may not know we had. One is a fixed mindset. As said in its name, a fixed mindset is believing that your basic abilities, intelligence, and talents are fixed traits. On the other hand, those with a growth mindset believe that basic abilities and intelligence can be developed through hard work and dedication. Now, how can we see these mindsets being incorporated into education and schools? Generally speaking, schools gravitate more towards a fixed mindset than that of a growth mindset. How can we change that?

Schools including staff and students would benefit from adopting a growth mindset as it improves the overall well being of students and staff. First, we have to start by changing teachers fixed approach towards teaching, doing this will improve the performance of students in their respective courses and also the teacher’s attitude towards teaching. It is as important to teachers as it is for students to build a growth mindset. Most teachers try to teach their students to have this mindset but sadly it is near impossible to teach this mindset if the teachers themselves operate with a fixed mindset. To further explain this:

New teachers often have a fragile sense of themselves in such a demanding profession. With a fixed mindset, where they feel their ability being judged, they might hide their struggles. Only tell their successes to people so that they’ll get flattering feedback. Not ask experienced teachers to come to observe them. But in a growth mindset, you want the people who can give you the most honest feedback that you can build on. (Carol Dweck on Fixed Mindsets in New Teachers 2019)

Let us face it, teachers are humans just like the rest of us. With that being said, teachers have to be open to the idea of growing and learning, with the yearn to trying new things. Incorporating this growth mindset in teaching means that teachers have to acknowledge that it is okay to be flawed in such a demanding profession. Receiving honest feedback from others will make them realize that no matter how good they are at teaching, there is always room for improvement. Having this attitude allows growth and as a result, teachers are open to learning from other teachers and even their students. After learning this mindset, teachers will then be able to instill this concept into students who focus on the desire to look ‘smart’ rather than facing challenges head-on. Moving forward, it is a known fact that some teachers set standards that have the potential to influence student achievements. This can influence the amount of information learned by the students and their desire to try to learn. How is this shown? It is shown through the feedback that is given to different students having different learning styles. Teachers who give feedback after summative assignments can either make or break the student. A study shows that:

Children exposed to intelligence feedback were likely to respond negatively when they faced achievement setbacks … children given effort feedback, who valued learning over performance, were less likely to fall apart when they experienced an isolated low performance. (Busch 2018) Intelligence feedback, in a nutshell, is giving a response that focuses on praising a student’s smarts which can be classified as a fixed mindset. This can be ineffective as it can be perceived that their intelligence is fixed. As a result, when a student finds himself or herself in a stumbling block, the initial response is to downplay their intelligence and ability to grasp new concepts. With that being said, teachers have to be very careful in choosing the type of feedback they give their students. Effort feedback is preferred as this will motivate students to value learning and open their minds to understanding that success does not happen overnight. Moreover, teachers tend to place a lot of value on test grades. This defeats the purpose of fostering a growth mindset as it communicates as a fixed mindset that focuses on performance over learning. A study shows that in math courses:

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Even worse students often view grades not as feedback on where they are in their learning but as a judgment of who they are – which is why students can often be heard describing themselves as an A student, or an F student. Grades are blunt instruments that are not oriented towards growth or learning – and, importantly, give no feedback to learners on what they should do differently. (You cubed 2018) This revelation is true as students tend to pressure themselves when they don’t get their desired test scores. I understand that it is the school system, however, teachers can somehow lower these values on tests so that students can value their learning over how they perform on their tests.

Furthermore, teaching students to be acceptable to a growth mindset will improve performances in courses and foster a healthy school routine. Having students recognize that the brain is not a fixed entity is very important in fostering a growth mindset. Our brains are still developing and growing. To support this, ‘Brain activity is most intense when people have a growth mindset, shows just how important it is that people believe in themselves and they know that brains can grow and change with hard work.'(When You Believe In Yourself Your Brain Operates Differently 2015) To elaborate, the brain is not static, meaning it has plasticity also known as neuroplasticity. What is this neuroplasticity and how does it work? It is the potential for the brain to grow and change, allowing neurons to alter and adapt to difficult situations. This means that as we perform new actions, our brain starts to form a neural pathway that becomes more permanent as we repeatedly perform these actions. Our learning environment affects plasticity, and so it is important to have a growth mindset. It will help you overcome the fear of change and instead embrace it to grow within yourself and your brain. I hope this scientific evidence will help increase your susceptibility to being able to see failure as not an endpoint but a gateway to work harder. Moreover, students’ acceptance of feedback from teachers plays a role in how they choose tasks. The main finding shows that: Children who were praised for their intelligence were more likely to choose future tasks that they thought would make them look smart. Children who had been praised for their effort tended to choose tasks that would help them learn new things. ( Release Your Inner Drive 2019)

Essentially, this finding is saying that students who received the effort feedback are more likely to choose tasks that will improve their learning skills and are open to challenging themselves. While students who receive intelligence feedback were more likely to choose tasks in their comfort zone that they could perform well on which leaves no space for growth. In my opinion, it is best to receive effort feedback positively and not as a punch to your ego because, in the long run, it will pave the pathway for excellence and strong developmental skills. Lastly, the most important benefit of a growth mindset for students in fostering mental health benefits and overall well- being. To expand more: There is evidence suggesting mental health benefits – those with a growth mindset have been found to be less aggressive, with higher self-esteem and fewer symptoms associated with depression and anxiety. (Collier 2018)

Mental health in schools is very important. We see many times, students fall victim to depression and anxiety. I know it is not that easy to open your minds to a mindset that can help with real-life problems. However, it is very important as it leaves us with the possibility of changes in some aspects of our mental well- being. On the other hand, it is better than a fixed mindset which will just have you believe that you can not change and therefore you see yourself asking questions like, ‘Why should I bother?’ On this note, as students, our mental health comes first and so we can take one step closer to taking control of our minds, by adopting this growth mindset.

Bringing this talk to a close, adopting a growth mindset in schools is the main focus for teachers and students. I need you guys to think about the mindset, you want moving forward. One that will have you walking on eggshells most times. Or, one that ensures growth as an individual. Three words I want you to remember: process, effort, and perseverance. With that, I leave you with a quote from Michael Jordan. Thank you for your time!

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