Learning is a Process – Leading to Success
In the mid-1980’s I recall watching my father keep the attention of several hundred students at once, in a high school auditorium. He didn’t work for the school, he was a therapist and motivational speaker.
He visited that day as a guest to speak to students and faculty about what it takes to succeed. Over the years he worked with thousands of students, athletes, and professionals helping them improve their grades and outperform their competition.
My father understood something the rest of us didn’t. His words were not new to me but seemed fresh, and real, and truer than ever. He told the story of making the choice to be “in the winner’s line or the loser’s line”. I wanted to be a winner, so I listened.
Forward 30 some years and here I sit, pondering the same lessons he shared with me as a child, a teenager, and a young adulthood until he passed away. Now, as a teacher and trainer of others, I reincarnate his tone and mannerisms and ask the same question in a different way, to a different group of students.
New terms like “growth mindset” and “significant learning environment” are used to discuss the same questions from decades ago – what does it take to succeed? I think the answers are still the same.
Certainly, having a growth mindset is just as important as ever – that is, standing in the winner’s line. It’s been proven to change how all of us make decisions and more importantly, how we recover from failures.
How we think affects how we teach and our students learn. From personal experience I continue my father’s legacy, to help people recognize their role in achieving success – however, it’s defined.
A Growth Mindset Plan
On her website, mindsetonline.com, Carol Dweck has masterfully outlined four steps learners can follow to move away from a fixed mindset and develop growth mindset habits. Her advice is not age specific but teachers can expect to do a little soul searching themselves as they help students change their thinking.
In another post (My Learning Philosophy) I provide a full-blown explanation of how I use similar steps through a model I created to fit my classroom environments. The model is based on my personal experience with a growth mindset (before it because popular in education) but the concepts parallel Dweck’s suggestions. As you read on, keep Dweck’s steps in mind:
- Learn to hear your fixed mindset “voice.”
- Recognize that you have a choice.
- Talk back to it with a growth mindset voice.
- Take the growth mindset action.
What is success – and how does it happen?
Success in the classroom comes when learning and achievement are indistinguishable – when an “A” = content mastery by application, not regurgitation. In short, success happens when what we know (through facts and experiences) and what we’ve learned (the difference in understanding between two points) collides with the choices we make.
That’s also my definition of failure.
To reach this pinnacle, educators first need to look long and hard at the big picture and focus their efforts on students’ learning, not on their own teaching. Next, educators should be aware of the signs of the fixed and growth mindsets. You can’t fix it if you don’t know it’s broke!
In keeping with Dweck, her book: Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (2006) is packed full of information about the signs. Finally, teachers should consistently use strategies that help students learn how to change their thinking – that’s where Dweck’s steps come in.
As I mentioned earlier, I have known and lived the growth mindset my entire life and have developed my own set of tools for the task which you can find in my post My learning Philosophy. Regardless, the principle of changing how one thinks are basically the same.
Students may not understand the term (mindset) but they will recognize the changes that come from the shift in their thinking. As their thoughts change so will their actions – leading to success. I don’t find it necessary to offer more explanation than asking students to reconsider their thoughts when they find themselves in a fixed mindset.
Using my model students and I revisit the process of goal setting and reflection, which, similar to Dweck’s “yet”, allows students to recognize learning is a process which takes time.
I don’t promote the concept of mindset with videos or literature with students. Instead, I’ve created a culture that supports this “reprogramming of thinking” process. Students quickly realize they must challenge how they think as a regular part of learning in our course. Our conversations walk through identifying their “inner voice”, as Dweck calls it, and helps them see the situation and the choices they have available.
Eventually, they hear this voice without prompting and when they prove to themselves no harm will come from taking a risk – which sometimes requires great effort – they listen and act on that voice. As students make different choices they begin to see different results and eventually develop the self-dialog that keeps them moving forward in their learning. This is growth mindset.
My experience shows that fixed mindset learners must first trust the environment before they’ll try something new. I create a nonjudgmental classroom where they feel safe to think differently. With trust and time, they learn to listen to the choices offered by their new inner voice.
The evidence (progress) brings them closer and closer to success. Their success supports their willingness to remain in the growth mindset, even after failing, although it may take a lifetime to make Dweck’s steps into a habit.
In my post Making the Educational Pieces Fit, all the facets of creating a significant learning environment are brought together. There you’ll find details about how I manage my class environment to keep the growth mindset culture alive and well.
The examples I use in that post center around a new course, German Blended Learning where my class tenets and Environmental Influence Model (a reflection of concepts similar to what Dweck speaks of) will be used.
During the past few years, I’ve used this model in the introduction and advanced coding courses with great success. With the new knowledge and steps Dweck presents, I foresee using her resources specifically to help engage other teachers in creating growth mindset environments of their own.
Image Source: Google Images: Licensed to reuse, pixabay.com
Carol Dweck’s website: http://mindsetonline.com/
Dweck, C. (2006) Mindset: The new Philosophy of Success. (Nook eBook) Retrieved from Barnes & Noble.com.