Every educator can tell you the importance of feedback. And, while it’s easy enough to offer praise for a job well done, what can be done to encourage quick learners to reach higher while simultaneously encouraging those students who haven’t quite gotten it yet?
Recently, Dr. Matthew Arau, a college professor and student leadership expert, created an online course for Atomic Learning focused on Unlocking Potential: The Impact of Mindset of Success. In the course, Dr Arau cites the work of Dr. Carol Dweck—a well-known researcher in the field of motivation and a Psychology Professor at Stanford who certainly knows her stuff.
In her TEDx Talk on the topic, Dr. Dweck states that teachers must “praise wisely.” Instead of simply praising the right answer, teachers need to praise students’ effort, the use of strategies, and documented improvement to ultimately foster a growth mindset.
Many people have what is referred to as a fixed mindset. As Dr. Arau explains: “Someone with a fixed mindset believes that intelligence, talent, and ability are fixed or static. If you are talented, things come easily to you; if you have to put effort into an endeavor, you must not be talented.”
Someone with such a mindset will look for validation of their success (or failure) rather than seek to grow themselves.
In contrast, someone with a growth mindset believes in the power of hard work and strives to improve themselves. This focus on personal growth creates a love of learning and fosters resilience.
According to Dr. Arau, “Growth-mindset students embrace challenges and are excited by the process of learning, whereas fixed-mindset students shy away from challenge because "failure" could expose them as not being smart or talented.
Without a growth mindset, it is too easy for a student (or anyone, really) to declare that they “can’t” do something and then simply give up. With Dr. Dweck’s approach (commonly referred to as “The Power of Yet”) focuses on learning as a process. In other words, if you haven’t learned something or mastered a skill or achieved a goal, it’s not that you can’t…you just haven’t done it YET.
As educators, consider the power of “yet” in the face of students’ frustration, negativity, and self-doubt:
“The problem is too hard - I can’t do it”…YET
“I’m not a good writer”…YET
“I don’t know how to do that!” ...YET
Each time a student utters “I can’t.”, take a moment to reply with a simple, three-letter word… YET.
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