Do we have time for “yet” in public education?
This post revisits Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck’s book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. In the book she explains the difference between a fixed and growth mindset. People with a fixed mindset believe their qualities are fixed traits and therefore cannot change. This leads them to run away from challenges, cheat, and compare themselves to other children who do worse than them. In contrast, people with a growth mindset have an underlying belief that their learning and intelligence can grow with time and experience. They see difficulties as a challenge to overcome. They believe they can get smarter and that effort has an effect on success, so they put in extra time, leading to higher achievement. Dweck states that by simply changed our mindset from I can’t do __________, to I can’t do __________ YET, we can begin to think differently about our abilities. This could be especially beneficial as students deal with learning challenges.
Recently I was going back through the book and one of Dweck’s many TED videos. I couldn’t help thinking about how Dweck seems to be unaware of our current education system’s tendency to stamp out the idea of a growth mindset in students. Let me explain.
Growth mindset is dependent on allowing students to work at their own pace. The concept of "yet" implies that some students need more time to learn or "get" the concept. However, our rigid educational system does not currently support this notion. Students that grasp a new concept “first and fast” are typically the only ones that experience success. Teachers simply do not have the time or privilege to allow students to take extra time for "yet.” Dweck’s research may hold up in a perfectly paced learning environment, but when we are shuffling students in and out of classes and teachers have more learning objectives than time to teach, the concept of “YET” gets pushed by the wayside. This fact cannot be ignored. Some students simply are not allotted time to truly learn at the pace they need. This is why I believe we need to switch to a blended learning approach which gives students some flexibility in path, place and pace, but that is another blog post.