Mindsets: What can we do?

Changing mindsets isn’t that problematic. With young children, just don’t give them a label. Instead of telling them how clever/stupid/good/bad/talented/clumsy/etc. they are, talk to them about how well they have done in terms of effort and work. Instead of saying how brilliant they are, praise the work that they must have done in order to accomplish whatever they have done. Keep them focused on their work and effort. This instils a growth mindset. The more you work at something, the better it can become.

The same applies if you are dealing with older children or young adults. However, in addition to not labelling, talk to them about what a mindset is, and talk to them about how you can change a mindset from a state of being to a state of continuous improvement through work and effort. Whatever they are doing, they can improve on it by incorporating feedback and learning from mistakes that they make. It isn’t rocket science, it is learning, and we are born to learn.

Any State of Being

A state of being, as far as a mindset is concerned, is something that you believe that you are. Anything that can be used to define you can create a mindset that can create limitations on your potential. Grades can create a state of being – I am a C grade student. Anything that says a process is finished, and therefore defines you can create/reinforce a mindset.

Mistakes (in education) are another thing that can reinforce a negative mindset. In formal education, you are defined (graded) by the number of mistakes you make – the more mistakes, the lower your grade. In life, mistakes are one of the most powerful learning catalysts that exist. A good proportion of my learning has arisen through the mistakes that I have made. This is the same for virtually every normally functioning human being, and yet in formal education, mistakes are intolerable (part of educations medieval clerical training heritage – if you are copying manuscripts, you can’t have mistakes).

We can do better than we have in the past. For almost all teachers, teaching is a noble art with a rich heritage. Unfortunately, learning is not an art. It is what we are born to do. Learning is hardwired, and follows discoverable principles – many of which have been found and tested. Mindsets are one of these principles. There are many other principles that underlie motivation, but my next few posts will look at memory, how it is really structured (as opposed to how we would like it structured) and how the structure and function of memory can be harnessed to learn.


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