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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Mindset Example

Okay, so I love my students, but I seldom feel inspired to share anything about them online. But because I've been posting all this stuff about mindsets, and I've recently encountered a really excellent example of how mindsets can be detrimental, even to "good students", I thought it appropriate to share (sans names, obviously).

So I have Student A, who comes from an upper-middle class white family and attended a good suburban grade/middle school. He was one of the academic "top dogs" of his 8th grade class, and most of his life his academic success has come easily to him. I wouldn't say that's because his grade school isn't rigorous; I just don't think that they really ever challenged him. I think he's spent his whole academic career being able to pull off high grades without putting forth any effort. Our modern American educational system (itself stuck in a fixed mindset) has fostered a fixed mindset in him. It's pretty clear that he thinks he is naturally smart, and that he has never had to put forth effort to understand or learn, and that effort is what less smart kids do to learn, but because he "is smart", he doesn't need to put forth effort.

Transition to freshman year of high school has been difficult for Student A. He has run across teachers who are teaching challenging material and a faster pace and who grade harder. Student A assumes he doesn't have to put forth effort, because he's smart. Student A begins to get lower grades than he got in grade school. Student A thinks, "This shows that I'm really NOT that smart after all. What's the point in trying? Since I'm not smart, I'm not going to do well whether I try or not." Fixed mindset. Student A puts forth no effort and begins to spiral downward academically in all of his classes, even the ones he was doing well in before. Hopefully, I can explain to him the growth mindset and help him begin to change and put forth effort.

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