Week #5 and Why We Are Careful With Growth Mindset Language

Have you heard of Growth Mindset? You’ve surely been influenced by it's impressive author, Carol Dweck. Her secret to supporting cognitive achievement: never tell children they are smart. Instead, give them feedback about their effort.  

It turns out that when praised for identity, children tend to develop a “mind-set” that their intelligence is fixed. Then when they encounter a problem they can’t solve, they quit early, thinking that it’s simply beyond their reach. Conversely, when children are praised for trying hard, they develop a “growth mind-set” that tells them to keep working and that they can get smarter by doing so. 

Growth mindset praise means providing feedback that is not based on identity (smart/not smart) but on behavior (trying hard/not trying hard). When it comes to cognitive achievement, there is widespread evidence for the effectiveness of Growth Mindset feedback, both from Dweck's studies and the impact of her advice on schools and families. We see that effectiveness at Acton Academy Lakewood as well.

This Spark Learner is applying Growth Mindset to the challenge of completing a Montessori Hundred Board.

Learning virtue requires a different approach. “You are patient” works better than, “That was a patient thing to do.” 

This study, as explained in Leonard Sax's The Collapse of Parenting sheds light on why: 

Students were less likely to cheat when they were told that the researchers were studying the prevalence of cheaters. The proportion of students who cheated more than doubled when researchers instead said that they were studying the prevalence of cheating. Words make a difference. Saying “Don’t be a cheater.” (identity is a more effective instruction than saying “Don’t’ cheat (behavior). Apparently, kids are more comfortable cheating if they don’t see themselves as cheaters. Likewise, researchers have recently found that young children are more likely to help with a project if they are encouraged to “be a helper” rather than merely asked to “to help.”

After all, behavior influences identity and eventually becomes identity. Our actions really do create our character.

The all school Picnic on Friday gave plenty of opportunity for exhibiting and developing virtue. 

Last week, with our Sparks (preschool-Kinder) respectfully watching, Elementary Studio learners solemnly signed their contract of promises to one another. 

This contract was developed over the session by a process where ideas for promises could be submitted, voted on to try out, and finally voted on to make part of the contract.

The promises in the list reflect our approach to the right kind of words to nurture optimal cognitive learning with Growth Mindset language and also nurture the development of virtue by embracing language that describes how our actions become who we are.

Elementary Studio contract signing ceremony

For example, promise #4, “I promise to do my best work” emphasizes doing. Promise #10, “I promise to stand up to bad actors--not accepting bad sportsmanship, blaming, or bullying of any kind,” illuminates the link between behavior and becoming. 

To realize that who we are is ultimately determined by our choices is ultimate empowerment! It’s why our philosophy, “Clear thinking leads to good decisions, good decisions lead to the right habits, the right habits lead to character, and character becomes destiny,” drives everything we do.

This team was so proud to welcome parents to the end of the session exhibition. 

Next session our focus is entrepreneurship, a wonderful setting for working hard and being kind and patient!

Have a great week,

Check out more photos from last week here.

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