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41. Alison Johns - Growth and Fixed Mindset

Talk by Alison

March 17, 2022

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Book mentioned: Carol Dweck - 'Mindset : Changing The Way You think To Fulfil Your Potential'

Professor Dweck - Mindset Works


Alison: All right. So let's start by looking at the definitions of a growth mindset and a fixed mindset. The fundamental difference between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset is the way you see ability, a person with a growth mindset. So usability is something that can change. You can get smarter, a person with a fixed mindset.

So usability as set, you can't change it either. You are smart or dumb either you have a talent or you. There is different views on ability then affect the way you see effort, challenges and goal setting. So a person with a growth mindset is someone who sees ability as can change. They will see effort as evidence of learning.

If you are putting effort into a task, then you must be learning something new. If you don't need effort, then it's super easy and you already know how to do it. So you're not actually learning. And so a person with a growth mindset. They embrace challenges, a person with a growth mindset who sees ability of something that can change, have a goal to learn.

They're comfortable with asking for help or making mistakes because their goal is to learn and they'll do whatever it takes to make sure that they learn. They're not worried about what other people think of them, a person with a fixed mindset. On the other hand, they see ability is something that can't change. And so they see effort as evidence that they can't do the task. If you have to try, then this task must be something that you just aren't born with, the ability for. And so people with a fixed mindset will avoid any kind of challenge, a person with a fixed mindset who says that ability can't change. They have either one of two.


A person with a fixed mindset might have the goal to hide inability or they'll have the goal to seek validation. So a person who wants to hide their inability, they're very quiet. They don't ask questions and they won't ask for help. The alternative goal for a person with the fixed mindset is to receive validation.


So for example, I might ask Mary what she thinks the answers to a question and fill up or call it out in the classroom. Even before Mary has a chance to open her mouth. And then if I stop Phillip from calling out, then he is offended because he's not received the assurance that he needs needing validation also means that you don't try new things.


You don't ask questions and you don't ask for help because you always want to look like, you know, what. Both goals of hiding an ability or seeking validation result in less learning. Now growth mindset is not saying that everyone is the same and that we can all be superstars at whatever we decide we want to be.


But it is saying that wherever a person is now, they can improve with effort, good strategies and help. Sometimes we have a growth mindset and sometimes we have a fixed. We don't have to have a growth mindset in everything, but if there is something that we want to learn, a growth mindset will help us get there. Having a growth mindset is not about positive thinking. It's about acknowledging our weaknesses and putting in time and effort to overcome. So, where did these, these ideas come from? Carol Dweck is the professor of psychology at Stanford university. With her team. She has studied hundreds of thousands of students from primary to high school, to college students.


In 2015, she was involved in a study of all of the 10th grade students in Chile. That's 170,000. She's written a book, which is called, mindset, the new psychology of success. And I want to read from page 15 when I was a young woman, I wanted a prince like mate, very handsome, very successful, a big cheese.

I wanted a glamorous career, but nothing too hard or risky. And I wanted it all to come to me as validation of who I was. Can you hear the fixed mindset? It would be many years before I was satisfied. I got a great guy, but he was a work in progress. I have a great career, but boy, is it a constant challenge?

Nothing was easy. So why am I satisfied? I changed my mindset. I changed it because of my work one day, my doctoral student, Mary Bandura, and I were trying to understand why some students were so caught up in proving their ability while others could just let go and look. Suddenly we realized that there were two meanings to ability, not one, a fixed ability that needs to be proven and a changeable ability that can be developed through learning.


That's how the mindsets were born. I knew instantly which one I had. I realized why I had always been so concerned about mistakes and failures. And I recognize for the first time that I had a choice. Professor Dweck has done a couple of Ted talks that I found very helpful in one of those talks, she discusses, praising the process that our children go through.


When learning rather than praising intelligence or talent to praise the process, you can praise effort, strategies, focus, perseverance, and improvement. Praising the process creates kids with resilience, praising intelligence, or talent reinforces a standard that has to continue to be. Professor Dweck and her team have a website it's called mindset works, and the ideas of growth mindset and fixed mindset are explained more there, but it also has some tips on parenting and it also has an online program to support parents aimed at kids in the upper primary to junior high school.


I'd like to share a little bit about my experience with the growth mindset. So, as I said before, I started teaching it when I was struggling with some students and then I changed school and thought I better practice what I preach. And so at the new school, I was encouraged to join one of the extracurricular activities on offer.


And so I thought I'll, let's do something that I've always wanted to do. And I decided to join the lunchtime series. However, the night before the first lunchtime meeting, I panicked, I phoned a friend of mine who was a music teacher at another school. And I said to her, Lisa, can I just come and sing with you tonight?


So I don't make a complete fool of myself. She was very kind. And I went over and sang with her and she was very encouraging. But it was on the way home that I realized that I was looking for reassurance. I was actually realized that I had, I was approaching this with a fixed mind. And so I decided I would change that.


So the next day, when I walked into that room at lunchtime, one of my year, 12 students said to me, miss, can you sing? And I said, not yet, but I'm here to learn. I changed my goal from having to perform to, wanting to leave. And I felt the pressure to, to perform four of my shoulders. It wasn't until I gave up that feeling of needing to meet a certain standard that I realized that the pressure had even existed and I'm still working on it.


I think there will always be times when I catch myself with that fixed mindset and then change to a growth mode. In some ways I have a love, hate relationship with growth mindset. I love to help others develop a growth mindset because I can see the benefits for them. But I do find it difficult applying it to myself because it means I have to step out of my comfort zone and that is uncomfortable.


So how do we change from a fixed mindset to a growth mode? There's three, they sound so simple steps. But they're actually quite deep learning. So the three steps are, firstly, you have to hear the fixed mindset. The number two, you recognize that you have a choice and then three, you talk to yourself with a growth mindset.


So for example, if you can hear yourself saying things. I can't do this, or I'm so dumb or I'm so smart or I'm going to look stupid. If I do this, they're all fixed mindset statement. And when you recognize that your you're in a fixed mindset, then you can, , decide to change that. And so, rather than saying to yourself, I can't do this, change that to, I can't do this yet.


Adding that word yet is very powerful. The word yet opens up the possibility of growth rather than saying I'm so, so dumb. You could say, what else could I try? Or when you catch yourself saying I'm so smart, praise the process. I worked hard on that. Or if you can catch yourself saying, I'm going to look stupid.

If I do this, then say to yourself, I can learn from the mistake. It's okay to get this wrong. The first time I can learn from it. And then eventually. So as a parent, this is what I'm trying to do. I hear my kid's fixed mindset statements, and I modeled turning them into growth mindset statements, changing the statements that lead to giving up into statements that allow room for learning in the future.

So what am I seeing? So I've been teaching about growth mindset before, about six, seven years now. And when I first started teaching it, I made some sense.

When I first started teaching about growth and fixed mindsets, about five years ago, I thought the change would happen. But my, in my experience and my reading it's, I think it takes about 18 months for this change to happen.


It is a deep change and so don't expect change overnight. And so that led into my second year. , I found that I was using fixed mindset as an excuse, not to help some students. Once I decided that they had a fixed mindset, I kind of gave up and thought, oh, I can't fix them. They need to sort out their develop a growth mindset.


But as I listened to some more talks from Carol Dweck, I realized that that's what I was doing. And that these were the students who really needed to be modeled the growth mindset and supported in changing the way they think. And then my third mistake,, was to not listen to emotions first. , so innate emotions do need to be dealt with before people can learn.


Imagine a time when you were struggling to learn something, perhaps learning to drive or fixing something on a company. At the time when you were really struggling and feeling emotionally worked up, how would you feel if someone said to you that you're having a fixed mindset and you should have a growth mindset and just get on with it when we are angry or scared, our flight or fight response is activated and we stop thinking clearly.


So for example, when my youngest daughter started to learn piano, when she was seven, she would cry with almost every new song she had. I have five children with five different instruments. And they all went through this with learning music. So when Elisa sitting at the piano in tears full of emotion, and I say to her, just practice a right hand.


She gives me the death stare of all deaths does, and then storms off to her room. If I acknowledge the emotion first, by saying something like you sound frustrated, then she will either correct me and say something like I hate piano, or she will agree with me and say, yeah, this new piece is too. If she corrects me, I need to keep listening to the emotion a bit longer.


So I might try reflecting the emotion by repeating what you said. You hate piano. When we have named the emotion correctly, she's then ready to think about a new strategy to try. Once we have contained the emotion, she is ready to hear the suggestion of practicing the right-hand only, but I need to help her through the emotion.


We can't stop that first emotional response, but we can choose how we respond to it. So just a couple of quick examples of positive impacts that I've seen on growth mindset in my classrooms. So Kaylee, are you 10 student? She used to be afraid of asking for help. And I asked her


I just want to learn. And so her goal had changed in the classroom. Her priority had become to learn rather than to hide her inability. Then there's Paige who's in year eight. She used to really, when I asked her a question in front of the class, she would, just say she didn't know the answer. And then one day she actually came back with an answer.


So I questioned her on that later, , at lunchtime and her response was I just thought about the question, you know, And to me, it seems like that she was no longer afraid of making mistakes in front of the class. And then there's Terry, you nine, his mother told me that he hated feeling dumb so much that he would rather hang around with the kids.


He perceived as dumb, even though they were nasty to him. So he avoided the nicer kids because he saw them as smart and didn't want to feel inferior. I've supported his mother, as she taught him how to change his thinking. The first change he saw was a willingness to try new foods. And then his stress level about assignments decreased dramatically.


There's no longer crying and fighting about assignments, but an acceptance that they take work. And that work is part of learning. This young man has started to see that effort is a part of learning rather than defining his unworthy. So to finish up, let's have a look at the definitions of growth and fixed mindsets.


Again, people with a growth mindset, see ability as something that can grow. You can get smarter people with a growth mindset, understand that learning takes effort. If it is a good thing, if you are having to put effort in, you must be learning something new. If you're not having to put effort in, then you must already know how to do that particular skill.


And so you're not really learning. Therefore challenges are a good thing. And people with a growth mindset, aim to learn. And so they're comfortable with making mistakes and willing to take risks and are happy to ask. People with a fixed mindset. On the other hand, they see abilities as set. Either you are smart or dumb either you have the talent or you don't for people with a fixed mindset.


If it tells them that they can't do that particular skill, if you are having to put effort into learning a skill, then that skill must be something that is in your, I don't have the talent for set. If you did have the talent for that school skill, then it would be easy. So challenges are to be. People with a fixed mindset, either aim to hide their inability or seek validation of their ability, both hiding, inability, and seeking validation of ability result in less learning because you don't ask for help and are not comfortable with making mistakes in front of others.


Research shows that a growth mindset helps you learn skills better than a fixed mindset. We all have a choice to listen to the fixed mindset, voice, or the growth mindset voice. When we hear that fixed mindset, voice telling us that we are dumb or that we might look silly doing something we can choose to change this thinking to allow for growth sometime in the future.

And talk us, talk to ourselves with a growth mindset. Research also shows that our children will benefit from us modeling a growth mindset to them. A growth mindset can be learned and it can be taught.

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