Mindset has been on my mind all week. On Monday our principal showed us the video below, base on years of research by Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck, about how powerful mindset is in influencing achievement. This is life changing stuff.
Basically, there are two mindsets - fixed and growth. A fix mindset is based on the belief that our skills and abilities are set and don't really grow or change. It's the mentality that statements like "I'm just not good at math" or "she's a natural athlete" come from. It's also pervasive in how we as a society view artists. The myth is that artists are born, not made through hard work and effort.
Children bring this mindset to our classes everyday - it's present the ones that are afraid to try because they worry their work won't measure up and it's present in the ones who have more advanced skills but don't move forward. What we want, of course, is all our kids to work hard and grow - to have a growth mindset. A growth mindset is the idea that traits like ability and intelligence can always be improved through practice. These are the students who's ability increases during your class by leaps and bounds. It's also the mindset of great artists, like Michelangelo, who said "If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn't seem so wonderful at all."
So, how do you create a growth mindset in your students? It's all in the praise you use. Comment on effort, not ability. Instead of just "Wow, that looks great!" add "I can tell you spend a lot of time planning your composition". It sounds simple but putting it into practice takes time. I have to constantly remind myself to comment on the effort, not just the result. The great thing about praising effort is that it's very meaningful for students with all skill levels and it encourages all students to keep working.
Some growth mindset supporting praise stems that can change your classroom culture:
I can see you really focused on__________.
I can tell you put time in to developing______________.
You work shows me that you understand how _____________ works.
I can see so much growth between ___________ and ____________. Great job!
I noticed that ________ wasn't successful the first time but I saw you work through it. Excellent effort.
Your hard work really paid off in how ___________ turned out.
Here's to having a growth filled school year!
I'm an high school art teacher who's really interested in student choice and creating opportunities for self expression. I'm also a writer for The Art of Education and co-author of The Open Art Room.