With celebrations off the gear and work mood taking ground, I cannot think of a better time to lay resolution cards on the table. While being a better teacher, having outstanding grades on the table, refining your pedagogy, upgrading to a new level or a new job, maybe some of your well-thought resolutions, the best resolve you can have for 2019 is to develop a growth mindset.
Are you troubled about John being in your class again because you cannot put up with his arrogance, or Linda and her drama, always pulling tantrums? Maybe it is Shema and his trajectory of failure, always pulling your averages down, or Yolanda, the one rebounding your class for the third time and you just wish she would make better use of her time. Perhaps it is the course that the Department Head allotted you, the one you don’t think you can teach. Such thoughts are a clear indication that we do have a particular mindset that can affect our teaching either way. If you truly believe that there are subjects you cannot teach no matter what, and that the likes of John, Shema and Yolanda cannot change, then you have a fixed mindset that should be transformed into a growth mindset.
The concept of growth mindset was developed by Carol Dweck, a world-renowned Stanford University psychologist, in her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. To her, mindset is a self-perception or “self-theory” that people hold about themselves or others. If you believe that basic qualities, like intelligence or talent, are permanent traits; if you believe you cannot sing because you are not talented or cannot ace a test because you are not intelligent, you belong to Dweck’s cluster of the fixed mindset people. However, if you believe that basic skills can be developed through hard work and dedication, that there is room for growth, if you are open to new strategies and opportunities, and are willing to embrace change, seek help from others, or that John, Linda, Yolanda and Shema can change, you most definitely have a growth mindset.
Simply put, a growth mindset is the belief that abilities can be developed and that nothing is fixed. It allows teachers to approach learners with patience and enables students to value learning regardless of the outcomes. When learners think they can as opposed to can’t, they take the initiative to grow and develop their abilities. In fact, Dweck contends that a positive mindset is the difference between a student giving up because they’re “not a math person” and a productive struggle that finally yields growth. This kind of mindset does not naturally come to your students unless you create an environment and a culture that reinforces it. That is why you need the growth mindset, yourself!
That being said, what does this mean for teachers and how can we develop it? It means learning is continuous, our teaching abilities can be developed, there is room for growth in all aspects, we can get support from our colleagues, and most importantly, that the learners can have someone who supports them in their learning by positively nudging them in the right direction. The starting point is to try out your most dreaded areas. For instance, if you believe you are a guru in teaching certain topics and weak in others, why not try working on your weak areas? If it can work for you, it sure can for your students. If there are learning theories or strategies that you have not kept an open mind on, why not give them a try? And what perception of John, Yolanda or Linda are you carrying over to the New Year?
Take a leap of faith this year and disabuse yourself of the fallacies you are obsessed with. People change and so do things and situations. Focus on making yourself better by developing your skills, embracing change and turning your challenges into opportunities for learning. Develop a fixed mindset.