These words, from a full Diploma candidate for the International Baccalaureate (IB), forever changed the lens of the research that I had been reviewing on low-income, 1st generation college-bound, high-achieving Latino youth. The words pointed to the role of a new psychology in the study of academic resiliency, and the critical elements of that resiliency that this blog is dedicated to.
“No, I’m not smart. I work hard. That’s the difference.”
The difference she spoke of was in reference to other Latino students in her school saying that they could never take the kinds of AP and IB classes that she took, because they “weren’t smart enough.”
For a qualitative researcher, the smallest nuance of a phrase can change the entire lens for which you assess the coding of your data. “No, I’m not smart. I work hard. That’s the difference.”
This mindset of being a hard worker speaks directly to the research of Stanford professor Carol Dweck in her book, Mindset: The new psychology of success (2006), and it provides a platform for better understanding a critical factor of academic resiliency found in the category introduced last week ofinternal motivation.
In her research, Dweck explained that two types of mindsets exist. The fixed mindset, and the growth mindset. The difference is that when students (or anyone) has a fixed mindset, they believe that intelligence/aptitude/ability are innate traits that cannot be honed/improved, but that the appearance/image or hope of these things can be lost. This mindset causes many students to resist taking challenges, and in some cases even shutting down in school (as a self-preservation measure).
Dweck explains the fixed mindset like this, “Believing that your qualities are carved in stone -- the fixed mindset -- creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over. If you have only a certain amount of intelligence, a certain personality, and a certain moral character” then life’s decisions will be evaluated in terms of “Will I succeed or fail? Will I look smart or dumb? Will I be accepted or rejected? Will I feel like a winner or a loser?” (p. 6), which can be devastating to a student's achievement.
Those with the growth mindset, however, believe that challenges are good and that intelligence/aptitude/ability can be honed/developed/learned, and allows for students to be able to step out and take a challenge, to risk being wrong, and not afraid of “being exposed” for someone/thing that they would otherwise be afraid that they are not.
Dweck explains, “In this mindset, the hand you’re dealt is just the starting point for development. This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. Although people may differ in every which way – in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments – everyone can change and grow through application and experience” (p. 7).
“No, I’m not smart. I work hard. That’s the difference.”
Mindsets and academic resiliency? Fan the flame of internal motivation by helping students realize their unique potential through the fostering of or development of a growth mindset. And when should that start? Dr. Dweck presents some compelling ideas on why this blogger recommends as early as possible, but by middle school at the latest. In my research with low-income, high achieving Latino youth, it was in middle school that they decided they wanted to be different, that they wanted to achieve. Their minds were set then. But why? Check back next week….
Check out this video for more insight in the relationship between mindset and motivation:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TTXrV0_3UjY
In being dedicated to an economy of words and respect/appreciation for the time of others, this blog site is committed to about 500 words a week – which was met above the line. Below the line are some insights on how we work with our young daughters on growth mindsets. There are also products that school personnel may be interested in to aid this growth in students in a strategic and fun fashion.
Growth mindset: Is it ever too early to start? My daughters are just beginning their educational experiences, but every day we work to remind them that they “make us proud” (versus “I am proud of you"), emphasizing “you tried really hard on that sentence” (versus “Great job, you are so smart"), and “I like how you challenged yourself reading that book” (versus “You did perfect!"). Instill feedback in a way that it is about their effort, not some trait that can be taken away or lost. Beware of the power of praise, and what you praise.
Every night, my Kindergartener and I go through the following mantra: "Can you be anything you want when you grow up?" - Yes - "Why" - Because I have good pink heart and a good pink brain, and I am a hard worker. - "What kind of mindset do you have?" - A growth mindset. - "What does that mean?" - That I like a challenge. - "Why do you like a challenge?" - Because I get to learn new things. - "Do you have to be perfect?" - No - "Why not?" - Because it is okay to make mistakes. - "Why is it okay to make mistakes?" - Because that helps me learn new things.
There are products available through www.mindsetworks.com that provide professional development for school personnel on mindsets, and student licenses for a web-based digital learning experience called Brainology (don’t worry, Dr. Dweck has no idea who I am and I have nothing to gain from the Mindset products or book). A high school I worked at in the Fall did a small pilot of the Brainology product with highly at-risk students. I will get written feedback from that effort and share it in next week’s post.
"Critical Resilience" This work is dedicated to the equal and fair education of all children, locally and globally.