As I start my 21st year teaching mathematics, it's a good time to reflect on the past and plan for the future. I often reflect and reread Mindset by Carol Dweck. As a teacher and parent, this book has had a big influence on me and I encourage more to read it. As a matter of fact I recommended it on Craig's List: PA Faculty and Staff Summer Reading List.
This book has influenced the education community. Everything from grit to describing ways of cultivating learning dispositions can be traced back to this book. Actually, it's a lot. In my effort to sift and simplify, throughout the year I'll try to instill the following four learning mindsets in students.
I. Growth Mindset:
"With hard work and effort, I can get smarter and better."
Someone with a growth mindset believes that intelligence and ability are a function of hard work and practice. Success is a product of the accumulation of directed effort and persistence in the face of setbacks. These students choose more difficult problems for the challenge and opportunity to learn.
The opposite of a growth mindset is a fixed mindset. Someone with this mindset believes that talent, intelligence, and success are inherited or magically achieved. They think that some people are simply smart and no amount of effort will make them smarter. When faced with hard problems, they usually stop working well before those with growth mindsets.
II. Self-Efficacy Mindset
"I can succeed."
Self-efficacy is the belief in one's own ability to complete tasks and reach goals (Ormrod, 2006). Those with this mindset believe that they can succeed and create pathways to success. These pathways are usually in the form of extra help from a teacher, peer edits or reviews, and utilizing other resources available.
III. Sense of Belonging
"I belong in this community"
When students believe they belong and are welcomed into a learning community, they tend to be more engaged in the learning process. This sense of belonging can be as small as a peer group or as big as a school. When you surround yourself with a group of people, you tend to form a collective set of values. Surrounding yourself with people who work hard and believe they can succeed will influence your mindset.
"This work has purpose for me."
When students value the work they are doing or the skills they are developing, they are more engaged and excited about learning. If students can see the value of what they are learning or even how different skills can be used across disciplines, they feel a sense of control over what they are learning and how it applies to them.
Sooner or later everyone is going to need help with a problem. How they handle this gives us good insight into their mindset.
"Your only as good as your record collection." -DJ Spooky