Teaching Success the Dweck Way

(Fight the Imposter Syndrome in your classroom and teach an… Empire State of Mind)

In New York
Concrete jungle where dreams are made of
There’s nothin’ you can’t do
Now you’re in New York
These streets will make you feel brand new
Big lights will inspire you
Let’s hear it for New York

As I have always been in love with words, senses, and true meanings, the above lyrics really inspired me. This symbolic connection of an empire state of mind could be transferred anywhere, beyond the borders of New York, in any place, situation, relationship, interaction that promotes fostering the fabled growth mindset; this view over a life that is full of empowerment, full of generosity towards yourself and other people and full of the healthy habit to see failure as the best reason to change and chase success, new dreams, a new way of life.

Before we go on, I will have to mention something really important so to make a distinction between this mainstream, constant toxic positivity. The empire state of mind, focusing on growth and not on obsolete thoughts, attitudes, and reactions is not a bunch of feel-good remedies. It is a way of life that embraces all the mistakes, drawbacks, and negativity that we have all faced, been faced with, and caused. These supposedly blocking factors then become lessons of life that promote creativity, kindness, and a will to try again and again, as long as it is required to rise from your dust and reinvent yourself. Going through darkness to find light is a necessary procedure of development. Let it happen. Let it be…

Growth Mindset

Some years ago, in between transit flights, while looking at books I found this book, which was a best-seller in the USA but in Europe, it was a brand new suggestion, especially for people involved in Psychology.

https://www.amazon.com/Mindset-Psychology-Carol-S-Dweck/dp/0345472322

My work bridges developmental psychology, social psychology, and personality psychology, and examines the self-conceptions (or mindsets) people use to structure the self and guide their behavior. My research looks at the origins of these mindsets, their role in motivation and self-regulation, and their impact on achievement and interpersonal processes.” Carol Dweck

Who is Carol Dweck?

She is an American Psychologist and Professor at Stanford University, who has dedicated her life to the development of the Psychology of Success and in making a clear distinction between the growth and fixed mindsetters and how their way of thinking affects their final destination/target, success, or failure.

In her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, she referred to the two concepts of Growth and Fixed Mindset. Those who believe their success is based on hard work, change, learning, training, and the tendency to reinvent themselves all the time are said to have a “growth” or an “incremental” theory of intelligence (growth mindset). Of course, there are others who believe their success is based on innate ability. These are said to have a “fixed” theory of intelligence (fixed mindset). They dread failure because it poses questions and doubts about their basic abilities, while growth mindset individuals don’t mind or fear failure as much because they see failure as an opportunity to try again, to change, to improve, and to learn new things.

“In a fixed mindset, students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb. In a growth mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don’t necessarily think everyone’s the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it.”

Activities that promote a Growth Mindset within your classroom

Fight the Imposter Syndrome and boost self-confidence

What is Imposter Syndrome?

This constant feeling of not being good enough. The feeling that others are better than me and everything I have achieved so far is because I somehow managed to fool them. This negative feeling has occurred to quite many of us and in some cases can totally block learning at its very core.

How to fight it?

  • Values Writing: Give kids a set of values (according to age and level). For example: Love, Altruism, Friendship, Equality, Effort, Success, Confidence, Hope, Faith, Contribution, Collaboration, Kindness, Humour, Honesty, Harmony, Knowledge etc. Work on the meaning and create examples so that the kids will understand everything (through sentences, paragraphs, or storytelling)
  • Ask them to do a little bit of self-evaluation. Ask them to choose their 3 favourite values and assess themselves according to how close to the concepts of those values they try to live by. If they seem to be far away from them they should try to find out why. Ask them to present — share — analyze — write sth on that.
  • Ask them to remember why others ask their advice for. If for example one is asked advice on friendship that means they are good friends, and that value is recognized by their peers.
  • Now it’s time for them to create a 3 — min self-commercial. That commercial should include all the things they feel important about. Present all commercials in the classroom.

Brainstorming on what Growth and Fixed Mindsets are

After having given them and explained to them the basic traits of the two mindsets ask them to create posters or infographics for them and present them in the classroom.

Role-playing

When the two mindsets have been thoroughly explained and understood, role-playing and pantomimes can start being used. Develop imaginary situations that require certain reactions and through role-playing show representations of the two mindsets. Examine the outcome with the kids and together decide on which reaction brought desirable results.

The Power of “Not Yet”

In one of her TED talks Dweck says:

“I heard about a high school in Chicago where students had to pass a certain number of courses to graduate, and if they didn’t pass a course, they got the grade “Not Yet.” And I thought that was fantastic, because if you get a failing grade, you think, I’m nothing, I’m nowhere. But if you get the grade “Not Yet” you understand that you’re on a learning curve. It gives you a path into the future.

“Not Yet” also gave me insight into a critical event early in my career, a real turning point. I wanted to see how children coped with challenge and difficulty, so I gave 10-year-olds problems that were slightly too hard for them. Some of them reacted in a shockingly positive way. They said things like, “I love a challenge,” or, “You know, I was hoping this would be informative.” They understood that their abilities could be developed. They had what I call a growth mindset. But other students felt it was tragic, catastrophic. From their more fixed mindset perspective, their intelligence had been up for judgment and they failed. Instead of luxuriating in the power of yet, they were gripped in the tyranny of now.

So what do they do next? I’ll tell you what they do next. In one study, they told us they would probably cheat the next time instead of studying more if they failed a test. In another study, after a failure, they looked for someone who did worse than they did so they could feel really good about themselves. And in study after study, they have run from difficulty. Scientists measured the electrical activity from the brain as students confronted an error. On the left, you see the fixed mindset students. There’s hardly any activity. They run from the error. They don’t engage with it. But on the right, you have the students with the growth mindset, the idea that abilities can be developed. They engage deeply. Their brain is on fire with yet. They engage deeply. They process the error. They learn from it and they correct it.”

So are you ready for the “Not Yet” pedagogy? It’s about time we embraced it, don’t you think?

Bonus material:

I have to admit I love comics. I think they have a unique way of explaining everything in a simple, humoristic, and clear way. One of the cartoonists I have recently discovered is Gemma Correll (find her amazing work here: https://www.gemmacorrell.com/ ).

Gemma depicted the Imposter Syndrome so nicely that I often include her pics in my presentations and I always suggest that they are shown to students, teachers, colleagues that might be fighting with the syndrome for some time.

https://www.instagram.com/gemmacorrell/

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