Assessing Growth Mindset

So far I have examined teaching practice, both my own and in general, within vague terms of “growth mindset” reference.

Now I need more details of “growth mindset” so I listened to Carol Dweck’s TED talk. She claims to have a panacea for all educational ills but other than that claim she is offering little in my view.

If telling kids in a school that if they persevere they can improve turns a school round, then the issue is not whether growth mindset is a panacea but what the hell was the school doing – no matter where the school is. If the message “if you persevere you can do better” is not a rephrasing of existing teaching practice then a teacher needs to examine their own practice.

Apart from mindset profiling there is nothing in growth mindset that is not covered by individualised learning, examining student motivation and working on under-achievement.

Growth mindset appears to be unable to deal with the main mindset issue – the creation of failures by the testing system. It was always my experience that students were realistic about their own expectations, and not often wrong. A teacher has to say “If you persevere you will maybe get a better grade”, but an honest teacher cannot say more than that.

IN growth mindset a fundamental description of the relationship between intelligence, talents and abilities appears to be lacking – note the word appears. What is intelligence? How connected are talents and abilities to intelligence whatever it is. Personally I can consider my ability at maths. If I did absolutely no work I would not have passed any maths exams, no matter how much work I did I suspect a Ph D would have been beyond my grasp, but I understood maths well. Ability, especially if measured by any form of achievement such as exams, has to be a function of “innate quality” whatever that is and perseverance. If anyone thinks they can pass exams based on ability alone they do not understand education.

Mindset profiling has potential as it is not something that was carried out in my time, but the growth mindset website profile doesn’t offer much. I answered the questions but bear in mind I suspect my views of intelligence, talent and ability differ from Dweck:-

“Your Current Mindset:
Right now, you are unsure about whether you can develop your intelligence. You probably care about performing well and you do want to learn, but you may still think that achievement should come easily and feel a bit discouraged when you perform poorly at something.
You are moving toward a growth mindset, but there may be a few ideas holding you back from achieving all that you are capable of doing. It could be that you are reluctant to risk failure, or feel concerned about others’ judgments of you, because you see performance as a measure of your ability. Or you may have a few areas where you are not certain that you can “cut it.” If you are holding back from taking on challenges or trying new things, you probably have more potential than you are using!
People who believe that they can increase their intelligence through effort and challenge actually get smarter and do better in school, work, and life over time. They know that mental exercise makes their brains grow smarter—the same way that exercise makes an athlete stronger and faster. And they are always learning new ways to work smart and build their brains.”

If reading this changes a student, well great; but I don’t see it.

If a student has a fixed mindset based on ability, racial profiling, gender profiling or any other educationally-restrictive mindset, then it is worth knowing and a teacher can do something about it. There are educational psychologists for whom investigation of such mindset profiling might be beneficial. But grwoth mindset profiling is targeting mainstream students so it is an increase in the teacher workload. I don’t see the increase in teacher workload being that beneficial.

Once you have done the mindset assessment here, you can then examine programs here, but then it is big money – not in my view money well spent.

In the TES podcast, there were some doubts expressed about the effectiveness of “growth mindset” teaching. Dweck’s view was that where it failed the teacher did not understand “growth mindset”. I don’t accept her assessment. For ease of reference I will describe the combination of individualised learning, examination of motivation, recognising and making an effort to improve underachievement as the Matriellez mindset. I assess that teachers with the Matriellez mindset would not have any improvement using the “growth mindset” so Dweck would consider them failures. I consider it as the growth mindset offering little that is new. Where she has been successful, I suspect applying a Matriellez mindset would have been similarly successful.

From what I have seen I think “growth mindset” offers nothing new. If applying growth mindset improves your institutional practice then great, but I would be asking what was your institution doing before. Appropriately-applied INSET could have had similar results. Definitely not worth the investment this page requires. Examining good practice within an institution through collaborative INSET would in my view achieve similar improvement.

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Books:- Treatise, Wai Zandtao Scifi, Matriellez Education.

Blogs:- Ginsukapaapdee, Mandtao, Zandtao.


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