Carol Dweck from the University of Stanford has proven that students look at their learning and intelligence in two fundamental ways with a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.
As a teacher I have the opportunity to make a profound impact on how students view intelligence. If I tell my students that they are smart, or brilliant when they do a great job on a project I am feeding a fixed mindset. At first, this does not seem like such a bad thing, but Dweck’s research has found that students with a fixed mindset are less likely to challenge themselves, and seek exciting learning opportunities. Encouraging a fixed mindset as a teacher is essentially encouraging students to view school as boring.
The fixed mindset the student displayed in the previous video shies away from difficult problems because she doesn’t want to be viewed as dumb. The student could be learning and expanding her knowledge, but she is restricted by her thinking that if a problem is hard, then she can’t figure it out. The student gives up and turns to her teacher to find the answer for her rather than asking for help with a certain part of the problem, or asking questions.
Truthfully, I would say that I have often been that student. It is easy to be the fixed mindset student because it does not require much effort, and relies on talent rather than dedication. Before college, I was the student that rarely struggled in math class. I aced tests purely because I believed that understood numbers. When I got stuck on problems I gave up and reassured myself with the understanding that nothing that hard would be on my test.
As I entered college, I was confronted with Calculus 3. The class threw many challenging problems at me, and at first I shrunk and gave up on many problems relying too much on partners in group work and help from my textbook. Since that class I have learned to struggle, fight, and persevere in problem solving as I take on proofs, difficult computations, and a variety of other mathematical dilemmas. I have learned that challenges can be rewarding and that hard work encourages the most growth in my learning! I hope to pass on the story of my learning to my students to inspire them to do the best they possibly can in their education. In fact their is no limit to the best they possibly can, so instead I say, “Seek to hit the sky, but then rise above the clouds because their is no limit that we can reach to our learning.”
This student displays a growth mindset! She had problems with the challenge problem, but seeks help to do the best she can! She does not want the answer because she knows that through her efforts she can find it, and the problem solving process has more value than the answer. As students endeavor to explore problems, they will grow adding to their leaves and knowledge of problems maturing as learners.
As a teacher, I hope that all other teachers will begin distinguishing and catching themselves when they talk up a fixed mindset. Let’s push our students to strive for more than what they already know and can learn out of a textbook. In fact, if students can learn everything out of a textbook and using videos, then their is little need for teachers. Teachers need to light a fire in each student by sparking students’ creativity, learning, and desire to seek out challenges in areas that interest them. Math teachers should boost their students’ morale, and focus on teaching students to explore areas of their own interest within mathematics. I will start telling students great effort and hard work on projects, rather than telling them they are smart because this is a key step in helping them to make the most of their learning!