By Sam Piha
We know from research that fostering growth mindsets in young people can promote very positive outcomes. Last year, we sponsored a Speaker’s Forum in Oakland, CA featuring Eduardo Briceño, Co-Founder and CEO of Mindset Works. We also sponsored a Speaker’s Forum in Los Angeles with Jacquie Beaubien, Senior Program Manager at Project for Education Research that Scales (PERTS) at Stanford University.
Much of the Growth Mindset research comes from Dr. Carol Dweck. You can view her 10-minute TEDTalk video, which has been viewed nearly 6 million times, by clicking below.
We recently worked with our Central Valley colleagues (Central Valley Afterschool Foundation, California Teaching Fellows Foundation, and Visalia Unified School District) to host a Speaker’s Forum entitled “Ignite Learning with a Growth Mindset!”. Below is an interview with our presenter, Emily Diehl, Director Professional Learning and Curriculum Design at Mindset Works.
Q: Very briefly, can you describe what we mean by “growth mindset” and “fixed mindset”?
A: Fixed mindset: the belief that abilities and intelligence are fixed and unchangeable
Growth mindset: the understanding that abilities and intelligence can be developed our whole lives
Q: Afterschool, or as it is sometimes referred, expanded learning, is still growing. Conservative estimates state that there is well over 10 million young million in these programs. Do you think that these informal settings are good ones to promote the idea of growth mindsets?
A: Any setting where students are with adults and peers who create a sense of belonging and help students build a strong sense that they can develop and grow is a great setting for promoting a growth mindset. These informal settings might be particularly helpful in that they tend to be lower stakes as far as achievement goes and so students are able to experience growth and reflect on their process to achieve that growth, without as much fear of failure.
Q: As our understanding of the needs of youth and afterschool research and literature expands, there is increased pressure on afterschool programs to do more – there are a large number of frameworks and related program practices which results in growing demands on afterschool staff. Does promoting growth mindsets require a complex set of practices?
A: No, I would not say it’s complex; however, it is not easy. The changes we make to be more growth-minded can seem very simple, but what might seem simple is not because we have to re-learn our responses and assumptions. Changing those beliefs and responses takes time, reflection, self-awareness, and practice. What’s more our emotions and desires can get in the way. An example of emotion getting in the way is embarrassment for making a mistake. We are less likely to risk trying new approaches if we think we will fail in front of others rather than knowing that the only way we can grow is by taking on challenges. Thus, we might know we can grow, but avoid growth opportunities because we want to avoid embarrassment.
Q: For afterschool leaders who are interested in ensuring that their programs promote growth mindsets, what do you recommend? Where should they start?
A: There are two great places to begin which many educators have found to be a successful first step. First is to change our feedback to students from person-centered praise (“You are so talented!”) to process related feedback or questions (“I noticed you didn’t stop when it got tough!”). We have a great deal of resources for this on our website and Twitter. The key is to think about the messages we send when we tell people they are smart when they do things perfectly and without trying very hard. That sends a message that smart people don’t try hard and don’t make mistakes. The opposite is true. So switching up that message to one of taking on a challenge, even if I might fail, because I will learn a lot, is the key to cultivating growth mindsets.
A second place to begin is to talk about the brain as malleable and changeable. Talk about how our brains change with practice – whether we are practicing “good” or “bad” habits – and we can re-map our brains all the time with effective effort. This helps place growth in a student’s internal locus of control – “the things I do and have control over can make me smarter”. This creates hope. There are many resources available on our website and other places for help promoting this message.
Emily is Director of Professional Learning and Curriculum design at Mindset Works. Mindset Works provides in-person, digital and printed growth mindset training and resources to thousands of schools. Mindset works helps teachers and students enable a world in which people seek and are fulfilled by ongoing learning and growth. Emily has spoken at numerous schools, districts, events and conferences for educators, students and district leaders. She supports schools across the country in implementation of mindset programs and professional learning sessions. She has contributed a great deal to the Brainology programs as well as educator programs such as MindsetMarker™ and LeaderKit™. She is editor of the Mindset Works blog and online newsletter. Twitter: @emilyadiehl