The media loves the stories that identify the following traits in “today’s children”:
- Cotton wool kids who can’t be challenged in case they “fail”
- Kids with entitlement attitudes that say they must get a prize even if they don’t try
- Children who are used to getting whatever they want without effort
“Because of the heightened desire for attention from parents, the child can be capricious, behave provocatively, make parents show emotions, and manipulate adults. Children are capable of much more than parents typically expect from them, whether it’s in the form of proper manners, respect for elders, work, generosity or self-control. We never want them to feel any discomfort, and so when they inevitably do, they are woefully unprepared for it…”
Are they like this because we, the adults, have not taught them that they need to strive, fail, learn, from failure, strive again – until they achieve?
Perhaps, one word can make a difference!
YET: Possibly the most powerful word in education!
The difference that simple three letter word can make at the end of a sentence is profound. It acknowledges that we have not reached our potential but also acknowledges that we have not given up on achieving this goal.
Imagine how much more positive my attitude to myself and Mathematics would have been if, around Year 7, I had been wise enough to add the word YET to the statement,”I’m no good at Maths!”
YET is about an attitude that says, we can achieve if we keep trying instead of giving up and blaming:
- The teacher
- The subject
- My genetics
- The school
- The people around me, etc.
Yet is the key to a philosophical construct known a “Growth Mindset”, made popular by Psychologist, Carole Dweck.
Over 30 years ago, Carol Dweck and her colleagues became interested in students’ attitudes about failure. They noticed that some students rebounded while other students seemed devastated by even the smallest setbacks. After studying the behaviour of thousands of children, Dr. Dweck coined the terms fixed mindset and growth mindset to describe the underlying beliefs people have about learning and intelligence. When students believe they can get smarter, they understand that effort makes them stronger. Therefore they put in extra time and effort, and that leads to higher achievement.
It would be easy to dismiss labels like Growth Mindset as another “fad”, if it were not supported by neuroscience.
Recent advances in neuroscience have shown us that the brain is far more malleable than we ever knew.These discoveries have shown us that we can increase our neural growth by the actions we take, such as using good strategies, asking questions, practicing, and following good nutrition and sleep habits.
Researchers are now coming to understand the link between mindsets and achievement. It turns out, if you believe your brain can grow, you behave differently.
Science can prove you are only as “dumb” as you choose to be. And you can stop yourself from being “smart” by deciding that you are too “dumb” to understand a concept, be a success at sport, pass a test or do well at school.
Real success depends on how you think about what you are doing. Success is not a permanent and fixed point that you cannot achieve. To be successful we need hard work, resilience, determination and most of all a belief that that you can do better – That makes all the difference!
According to Dweck there are two types of mindset:
- In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort.
- 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. Virtually all great people have had these qualities.
Simply put, the fixed mindset puts the responsibility for success or failure on other people, circumstances, luck etc. The growth mindset sees the opportunity for success through effort.
We get to choose which mindset we adopt.
So how can we develop the positive mindset that can allow us to experience real success?
- Acknowledge and embrace imperfections.
- View challenges as opportunities.
- Try different learning tactics: There’s no one-size-fits-all model for learning.
- Follow the research on brain plasticity: The brain isn’t fixed; the mind shouldn’t be either.
- Replace the word “failing” with the word “learning”: When you make a mistake or fall short of a goal, you haven’t failed; you’ve learned.
- Stop seeking approval: When you prioritise approval over learning, you sacrifice your own potential for growth.
- Value the process over the end result: Intelligent people enjoy the learning process, and don’t mind when it continues beyond an expected time frame.
- Cultivate a sense of purpose: Keep the big picture in mind.
- Celebrate growth with others.
- Emphasise growth over speed: Learning fast isn’t the same as learning well.
- Reward actions, not traits.
- Redefine “genius”: Genius requires hard work, not talent alone.
- Portray criticism as positive.
- Disassociate improvement from failure: Stop assuming that “room for improvement” translates into failure.
- Provide regular opportunities for reflection.
- Place effort before talent.
- Highlight the relationship between learning and “brain training”: The brain is like a muscle that needs to be worked out, just like the body.
- Cultivate grit: That extra bit of determination makes all the difference
- Avoid the trap of believing in “naturally smart”: Talent is just the starting point
- Use the word “yet.”
- Learn from other people’s mistakes.
- Make a new goal for every goal accomplished.
- Take risks in the company of others.
- Think realistically about time and effort: It takes time to learn. Don’t expect to master every topic under the sun in one sitting.
- Take ownership over your attitude: Once you develop a growth mindset, own it. Acknowledge yourself as someone who possesses a growth mentality and be proud to let it guide you throughout your educational career.
YET and the growth mindset are one of the keys to producing young adults who are capable of taking on a complex and ever-shifting world and succeeding.
So, knowing how powerful and effective the growth mindset is, we promote it to our students in word and deed.
Knowing how important this is, have we got it completely right?
We are not the best school in the state – YET!