“In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment” (Dweck, 2010).
While intellectually, I believe in this quote and hope that I would be able to impart its sentiment to my future students, I am also well aware that I am still working on internalizing it for myself. Part of my struggle with growth mindset is a fixation with achieving top scores, marks or outcomes as opposed to considering my progress and development as the mark of success. This is something I see valuable not only for a practicing teacher, but for a mother. Although it is easy for me to be focused and most excited about progress for other people, I realize that if I am not modeling a growth mindset for my son and future students, I will be giving contradictory signals.
After watching Carol Dweck’s TedTalk I began to consider the changes that I have been making to develop a growth mindset and what I can do moving forward. When I started the program, I was very excited to learn for the sake of learning, but also very focused on the thought that I might one day want to do a Master of Education and should therefore aim for higher scores. There was not always a healthy balance between wanting to really internalize new concepts and wanting to complete assignments in exactly the way necessary to achieve a top score.
When discussing children of a fixed mindset, Carol Dwek mentioned that “they run from the error, they don’t engage with it.” I can remember the first assignment I received back in this program that wasn’t at an A range. It didn’t matter to me that it was still a B, only worth 5% of the final grade, or more importantly that the task had pushed me to read critically and reflect on ideas that could be applied to my future classroom. Although I was determined to get an A on the following assignment and did work for it, I don’t think I engaged with my error or truly took the time to consider what I had learned or what I could learn from the task. As a result, I don’t think I every really identified my errors in that first assignment. My scores on the next three assignments fluctuated, proving that I wasn’t truly considering where my understanding could be improved but rather shooting around in the dark trying random strategies to improve my score.
In contrast, Carol Dwek mentioned that students with a growth mindset “process the error, they learn from it and they correct it.” I am very lucky to be taking this program with an incredibly supportive cohort. Over the first few weeks I was able to start developing support networks with other students and I think this is what really helped me to start moving toward a growth mindset. I started to talk a lot more about different subjects and assignments with my cohort. As my comfort level grew, I was able to ask others about assignments and share my own questions. As opposed to getting frustrated by lost marks, I was beginning to switch my focus to finding deeper understandings and connections between what we were learning and how they apply in both the classroom and life. Although I can’t say that I am never focused on grades, I would say that I make use of my cohort to engage in errors and misconceptions. Although I might still be disappointed if I lose marks on an assignment, I allow myself to be vulnerable by sharing my mistakes with my peers. I seek out conversations or clarifications and look for ways that I can apply my new learning.
Because I was an untrained teacher for 8 years before coming into this program, I new that I was going to learn A LOT but also be confronted with many of my own bad habits and mistakes. I came into the program preparing myself to feel really uncomfortable and potentially embarrassed at times. I know that I have started to move toward a growth mindset because now I find myself purposefully thinking about what didn’t work in my classroom and why. I focus on what I have learned and how much my understanding of class management has evolved.
In her Tedtalk, Angela Lee Duckworth mentioned that successful people have ‘grit’. Grit is the perseverance and resilience to follow through and achieve goals. She connected having a growth mindset with grit and said we should live “life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint”. Balancing this program with being a mother and wife has been extremely difficult. There are definitely times where it is difficult not to see failure as a permanent condition both at home and at school and this is why working on having a growth mind set especially important for me now. I can see that I have already made progress, but I also think I have a way to go. I may not be practicing a complete growth mindset YET, but I am working on it.
I have found that reflecting and talking about ideas has been really helpful. With this in mind, I will make sure to seek out colleagues and peers both in this program and in my future career. Having a growth mindset is not natural for me yet, so I will also need to be mindful and remind myself of what to focus on.
I found this website that lists 25 ways to develop a growth mindset.
As a previous science major, I think the suggestion of following research on brain plasticity will be helpful. I also really like the idea of making goals for yourself and then creating a new goal as soon as the last is accomplished.
Having a growth mindset is something that will always take a bit of work and reflection, but I can see the benefit of doing the work and am looking forward to the journey!