Monday, June 22, 2015

Dweck it right.

To say that I am a fan of Carol Dweck and her mindset research is a severe understatement.  Honestly, I'm close to groupie on this one.  Maybe even a potential president of a fan club.  Go ahead, call me a nerd.

Last week, in an article in Schoolsweek.UK, Dweck attempted to clear up some misconceptions about her mindset theory.

“The thing that keeps me up at night is that some educators are turning mindset into the new self-esteem, which is to make kids feel good about any effort they put in, whether they learn or not.

“But for me the growth mindset is a tool for learning and improvement. It’s not just a vehicle for making children feel good.”

I totally get the "thing that keeps me up at night" scenario -- and I usually sleep very well.  There are nights, however, when all teachers awaken, or count students prior to sleeping, creating checklists in their minds of potential strategies to engage the unengageable.  We worry about success, we worry about failure, (not just theirs, but OURS, since student failure IS our failure these days...),  and we hope that the biting of our tongues and the hairy eyeballs staring down the unengaged in our classroom will offer a bit of motivation, or at least a work ethic that is marginally more identifiable than what previously existed.  

Too many of the professional development sessions, articles, and books written about student engagement focus more time on diagnosing student inattention or identifying a reason for lack of success, rather than providing concrete strategies to offer assistance.  In her own polite way, Dweck has summarized her goals quite nicely:

“It should not be used for the purposes of accountability – I’m highly opposed to that. We don’t care if people have it, we care if they use it to make people learn.” 

Are we spending too much time theorizing mindfulness and not enough time teaching it?  Absolutely.  

And if we let Carol Dweck down, who are we really short-changing?