The Voice - JP Term 2 2018

Junior Preparatory - Term 2 2018

From the Principal of the Junior Prep

Patti Blackhurst Principal

C arol Dweck’s work on Growth Mindsets at Stanford University made a big impact on my thinking some seven years ago. At my previous school I was experiencing children suffering from exceptionally high levels of anxiety. Separation anxiety was at an all-time high and I witnessed children each day who would not attempt to read words, who were reluctant to have a go at solving problems, who would simply not take any risk at all. Simultaneously, parents were having great difficulty engaging in discussions about learning support and interventions that the school was advising. Research was, at the same time, making it clear that effort and practice, and a mindset that embraces mistakes as fundamental to learning, underpinned success in any realm whilst also developing the resilience that is so critical to success in all areas of life. Neuroscience was showing us that effort and practice and challenges actually changed the structure of one’s brain and ‘grew’ our brains by developing more complex, interlinked and integrated networks.

Carol Dweck defined two mindsets: a fixed mindset, which is a belief that abilities and talents are innate and that they cannot be developed, and a growth mindset, which is a belief that abilities and talents are developed through effort and the development of behaviours and attitudes that will stimulate that growth. Carol Dweck’s research showed us, too, that the language we use when we praise children (always with the intention of building self-esteem) could actually be incapacitating. Her research indicated that praising children, using the wrong words, can create a fixed mindset that limits the child’s capacity to attempt difficult tasks and causes the child to fear failure because the words of praise we often use (such as “you’re brilliant” or “you’re so clever”) create an expectation. A fixed mindset is essentially a ‘fear’ mindset. Telling a child that they are ‘brilliant’ or ‘clever’ actually causes them to fear failing to meet that expectation in the future! A child who is told he is so ‘clever’ because he got 98% for an assessment may fear the next assessment in case he gets a lower grade and is then demonstrating that he is actually

not ‘clever’. A teacher would be developing a growth mindset if he or she commented that perhaps the next test should be more difficult as getting 98% means the test was not challenging enough for the child, knowing that our brains grow through challenge. Research from Anders Ericsson (‘ Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise ’ by Anders Ericsson & Robert Poole) has now further proven that all our brains have the capacity to grow and develop and that innate talent and abilities only exist as myths. The only predisposition to success might be in the realm of sport, where physiology plays a significant role. All success is based on effort and practice. Professor Ericsson demystifies even Mozart. Mozart, commonly believed to be a genius, actually put in more hours of practice under the tutelage of his musician father than any other four-year-old in history. The new research is, however, showing us that the kind of practice and effort that we put into developing a skill is important. A growth mindset is now, therefore, an understanding that we can grow. The next step then,

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The VOICE of Dainfern College

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