Mind your Mindset

The term Mindset and the book on the subject by Carol Dweck has been the darling of Senior Management Teams in many schools over recent years.

The terms Fixed and Growth Mindsets as a way of describing attitudes towards a range of learning and behavior issues have become extremely popular within the education sector here in the UK.

Largely unchallenged her ideas have in many ways become as fixed of the Mindsets themselves.

Perhaps it is time to re assess the concepts in how they can be best applied in real terms.

Listed below are ways that she suggests you could determine where you best fit within the Mindset spectrum.

In the 4 sentences below pick 2 out of the 4 statements that you would mostly agree with

  1. Your intelligence is something about you that you can’t change very much
  2. You can learn new things but you can’t really change how intelligent you are
  3. much intelligence you have, you can always change or improve it
  4. You can substantially change how intelligent you are

Now in the next 4 sentences pick 2 out of the 4 statements that you would mostly agree with.

  1. You are a certain type of person and there is not much that can be done to change that
  2. No matter what kind of person you are you can always change substantially
  3. You can do things differently but the important parts of who you are can’t really be changed
  4. You can always change basic things about the kind of person you are

If terms of Intelligence if you picked sentences 1 and 2 then you are likely to have more of a Fixed Mindset.  If you selected sentences 3 and 4 then you have more of a Growth Mindset.

If any other combination took place then you have both Fixed and Growth attitudes

In terms of Personality if you picked the 1 and 3 statements then you have more of a Fixed Mindset. If you selected the 2 and 4 statements then you have more of a Growth Mindset.

Any other combination of the four statements then you have both Fixed and Growth attitudes

According to Ms Dweck if you fall into the Fixed Mindset camp you tend to think that Intelligence and Personality are mostly innate characteristics and you can’t really change them. The inference is that you have a fairly inflexible way of thinking.

The Growth Mindset is at the opposite end of the spectrum where you believe that anything and everything is possible. You therefore in contrast to the Fixed Mindset have a more flexible positive outlook and attitude.

This way of thinking of describing thinking patterns is not necessarily new but it is certainly packaged in a different way.

Carol Dweck is a Professor of Psychology in the USA and though we speak the same language as our American cousins it is clear that we don’t always think in the same way regarding a range of issues.

However the key question is that is it really as simple as this to determine attitudes? And if so, what are the implications particularly when applied to the issues of learning and behaviour

Although it is surely better to be in the Growth camp with regards to having a positive attitude about changing outcomes, I believe it is likely that everybody will have some fixed ideas about some aspects of abilities and skills.

Gary Player the golfer once said “the more I practice the luckier I get” and I agree that working hard to improve your skills will usually improve your outcomes.

However some talents must be surely innate, as even if I trained for 20 hours a week over a 10 year period practicing football free kicks I would never be able to bend it like David Beckam.

The point is that some of the things that we will have learned from our experience and expertise in specific areas will have forged an understanding that may serve us well in certain circumstances.

Whether we would refer to them as fixed or an understanding of patterns or even rhythms is open to interpretation.  If experience or knowledge can help us to provide the tools to support positive outcomes, then surely that is extremely valuable also.

My focus within all of this (as many of you will be aware) is to try and understand and support young persons with behavior and learning issues.

In all the training that I do, I daily encounter a range of views and opinions about why some students are failing to match their potential.

Maybe in regard to Mindset the key issue is to create an opportunity to challenge ourselves to understand why we may have fixed and growth attitudes with regards to specific issues and whether these may help or hinder progress in problem solving

We should leave no stone unturned in trying to find ways to better support children at risk within our school systems. This means that all ideas, strategies and options should be considered even if you don’t fully agree or feel comfortable about them.

To be to fair to Ms Dweck she is now saying that her theories on Mindset have been mis interpreted. For example she explains that a Growth Mindset has been confused with only nice things and positive attitudes, while people will not want to admit to having fixed ideas

Surely the key is to understand what parts of our Fixed Mindset are useful, valid and valuable as opposed to opinions and what parts of Growth are practical and possible.

Maybe we should just keep an “Open Mindset” about Mindset