PERSONAL VS. SITUATIONAL
Pessimist: "I'm dumb."
Optimist: "That was a challenging test."
Pessimist: "I always get stuck with a weak partner."
Optimist: "I need to help my partner improve."
PERMANENT VS. SHORT-LIVED
Pessimist: "That team always beats us."
Optimist: "We are learning what it will take to beat them."
Pessimist: "I'll never figure out how to do math."
Optimist: "I'll need to spend extra time practicing these problems at home."
PERVASIVE VS. SPECIFIC
Pessimist: "There's no way I can find the time to do all of this. I have soccer practice tonight. My teacher gives me too much homework."
Optimist: "I'll have to use my time more wisely in class. If I spend 45 minutes a night studying, I can get my assignments completed."
Source: adapted from The Champion's Comeback, Jim Afremow, (2016)
Fixed: I can't execute this skill.
Growth: I'm going to devote more practice time to honing this skill.
Fixed: I am so embarrassed by this mistake.
Growth: I will learn from this mistake.
Fixed: I should be able to make changes quickly.
Growth: It takes time and effort to build winning habits.
Fixed: The other player (or team) is too good.
Growth: Playing against good players (or teams) is one of the best ways to improve my own performance.
Source: The Champion's Comeback, Jim Afremow (2016)
What does it take to become an expert in a field? Conventional wisdom tells you do something for 10000 hours, and voila, you’re an expert! No, says K. Anders Ericsson, an expert in the field of expert-level skill acquisition, who’s a professor psychology at Florida State University. It’s not how much time your spend learning, but how you use that time. Experts parse their learning into tiny slices or segments, practice that one action endlessly, but most importantly, they observe what’s happening and make imperceptible adjustments to improve. This goes for athletes, surgeons, chefs or spelling bee champions. Ericsson refers to this as deliberate practice: small tasks are repeated with immediate feedback, correction and experimentation.
The question is this: Are our students and we as teachers engaging in deliberate practice? Or are we just doing the same things over and over, without knowing what and how to change? Are we improving over time and growing, or just spinning our wheels in the mud?
(Source: Work Rules!, Laszlo Bock)
Dr. Carol Dweck has studied this area extensively. A fixed mindset is where a person is very pessimistic. They believe that their personal qualities are unalterable and negative experiences reveal their inherent limitations. The growth mindset is one where people assume that effort and dedication will shape achievement and failure is just an obstacle to overcome.
To support the growth mindset, we should praise effort and limit criticism of our students. Also, more importantly, we should encourage children's pursuit of challenges and focus proactively and what they can do right now to take on those challenges.
I think even as teachers we sometimes fall prey to the fixed mindset. We might look at a student and feel as if nothing is going to change, that today will be just like yesterday. But we need to remember to use our concerted effort and come up with fresh, creative solutions to overcome the present-day obstacle. As Albert Einstein once said: "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."
Daniel H. Lee
This blog will be dedicated to sharing in three areas: happenings in my classroom and school; analysis and distillation of other educators' wealth of knowledge in various texts; insights from other disciplines and areas of expertise that relate and connect with educational practices.