I've been reading up on Carol Dweck's ideas on the growth mindset. Here's a quick definition of the fixed and growth mindsets (this is from TES magazine).
The "Fixed" Mindset
fixed mindset is the belief that a person's intelligence, creative
ability and talent are fixed at birth and cannot be significantly
changed. Carol Dweck argues that individuals with this view are
reluctant to take on challenges because they see failure as a sign of
weakness and lack of ability.
The "Growth" Mindset
A growth mindset is the belief that intelligence, creative ability and talent can change.
According to Professor Dweck, people with such a mindset believe they
can learn from failures and improve their performance through
persistence and a willingness to try different approaches.
(Here's a useful diagram illustrating the difference between fixed and growth mindsets.)
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
As someone who has saturated their life with CBT and
thinks about much of life with CBT tools, I find it easier myself to
think about Dweck's ideas in terms of the CBT model well established in
my head. Actually, instead of "fixed mindset" I find it easier to get
my head around the term "fixed labeling". I think about:
Fixed labels and the messages they send to my daughter.
A Message to a Child
threw a ball toward my daughter's head and expected it to just bounce
off her head but, to my surprise, she headed it well - she jumped up and
then powered it away. To that I responded:
"You're a good headerer!"
made me think about the way I communicate with my daughter when she can
achieve a task. I realised I'd used a label and I found myself thinking
about the growth mindset and then asking myself: What does this way of
talking to my daughter achieve? If my daughter is to go on improving her
heading skills (only if she thinks this stuff is important though!) how
does awarding her a label "good headerer" help her? Does it help her
thought it might be more productive to acknowledge her success using
the word "can", which seems like it could emphasise the fact that she
has achieved what she has done through effort:
"You can head the ball!"
is greater emphasis there on the action than the label. It feels as
though it might also stress that she is responsible for her success at
Breaking it down
it constructive to break "can head the ball" into the component parts of
the action? I could look at the sequence of actions that make up the
action of heading the ball:
Can jump/can connect with the ball/can apply force to the ball.
if she wants to improve her heading, or was having some problem with
her heading, I could focus on one element at a time to improve it. There
wouldn't be the black-and-white thinking of "you can either head the
ball or you can't".
I'm not wanting little one to
think she lives in some cloud cuckoo land where she does everything
thought maybe it could be constructive to tag a "can't" onto the cans
to send the message that there's always scope for improvement. This I've
done in the "But can't" form:
Can jump/can connect with the ball/can apply force to the ball - but can't do that with great power.
Can jump but can't jump high/can connect/can apply force to the ball
are, of course, always many things you can't do in life. The things you
can do are heavily outnumbered by the things you can't. You also always
have the chance to improve something you can already do. There's always
the option to set another goal. It's worth planting a seed and sending
the message that although you can head the ball, it's not job done -
there are more mountains to climb (if you choose to). Even a task at
which you would say you have found mastery there will always be some way
to improve your skill, so I'd conclude that digging out can'ts is a good habit.
It doesn't take too much creativity to tag on the can'ts. Thinking of adverbs or adjectives can usually trigger a thought:
You can kick the ball but can't do it powerfully.
You can kick the ball but can't do it into the air.
You can head the ball but can't direct it to a team mate.
If you can't do the thing at all
she couldn't head the ball at all (I'm defining this here as "her head
didn't make any contact") then there's the possibility of listing the
can't first, and then listing some cans that are components of the
journey towards the successful heading of the ball.
You can't head the ball, but you can position yourself, you can see the ball, you can jump.
it's not about the black-or-white thinking of either being able to do a
task or not. There's always a degree to which you can do any task and
components of the whole task which can be worked on individually.
constructive to look at the degree to which an action thought of as
"can't"can be done to a degree - even if it's to the smallest degree.
You can't power the ball/ You can hit the ball with a degree of force, even though it's not strong yet.
You can't tackle/You can make yourself a nuisance by going close to an opponent and getting in the way.
You can't run fast/ You can run, you're getting faster, and you'll go on getting faster.
Can, Like, Want, Know
"Can" seems to be a good word to use but I think these others words can be thrown into the mix to use the way can is above:
If my daughter didn't like heading the ball because it hurts her head
when she connects then it could be constructive to word this as "You
don't like heading the ball". That cuts to the problem and gives us
something to work on - the fear, and the huge leap of touching a ball
hurtling through space toward your head - much more than if we'd gone
down the fixed label route of saying, "You can't head the ball!"
want: Seems like a constructive couple of words to throw in that might
suggest goal setting. "You want to learn how to take corners". "You
don't want to take corners because you don't have the power to kick that
Know/Don't know. Also constructive. Implies
that the knowledge is there, but hasn't been converted to a can yet.
"You know how to take a penalty but can't add the power yet." Or "You
know that as a goalkeeper you have to stop the ball with your hands but
aren't fast enough yet".
The idea of balancing the sentences - in the same way as with can/can't above - appeals:
"You like to outrun an opponent but don't like it when you get tripped up."
I'm sure there will be more words I will find that can be used positively in this way.
I use the awareness of "are a" and "are" to locate when I've used a label.
words "Are a" might indicate when I'm using a label and when it might
be a good time to switch to using the approaches above. An example would
be, if my daughter dribbles the ball well I might say, "You are a
footballer!" But better alternatives might be: "You can dribble the ball
well" or "You can dribble the ball well but can't pass to team mates"
or "You can dribble the ball well but can't run fast while you do it".
word "Are" might indicate when I'm using an adjective (which can also
function like a label). If my daughter scores a goal I might say "You
are skillful!" when "You can hit the target with the ball" might send a
words "be careful about not damaging a child's confidence!" pop into my
head when I think about the ideas above and I don't know what kind of
balance between cans and can'ts would nurture confidence
or damage it. But is thinking in that "you are either confident or you
are not" way a mistake in itself? Should there be one overall label of
"confident or not confident" or is it constructive to break confidence
itself down into component parts? I have to admit I don't know!
idea of "can't listing" appeals but I don't know if that would be
detrimental to a learner's confidence. As I said above, there are
unlimited things you can't do, but also unlimited ways to improve on
something you can do. What's the right balance? No idea!
The "Good girl"/"Bad Girl" thing
is related. I don't say either of these. I prefer to use "like", as in,
"I like that!" rather than declare "You're a good girl!" Similarly,
instead of saying, "That's good!" about something, I would - if I'm not
using the approaches above - prefer to say "I like that!" to indicate
it's more my personal opinion than a declaration of worth. It always
seems like arrogance to me to assume you're the one who gets to declare
to a child if something is good or not.
Part Two: Types of Skipping
can't skip!" my daughter proclaimed after trying to skip for all of
twenty seconds. I kind of figured that the word "skipping" acts as a
kind of label to her and she has this concept in her head of "perfect
skipping", the thing that must be achieved if one will be able to say
they can skip!
As "normal skipping" is beyond her
ability at the moment I thought a good approach might be to kill the
idea of this one form of perfect skipping and invent many types. Perhaps
with increasing difficulty.
So to get her used to the idea of jumping over the rope I could invent:
line-skipping: The rope is put on the floor and she just has to step over the rope.
Yoyo-skipping: The rope is put on the floor and she has to jump over the rope, then backwards over the rope.
Triangle-skipping: Mummy and daddy hold the rope and all she has to do is the jumping while mum and dad twirl the rope.
Slow-motion-skipping: Self explanatory; the "normal" skipping process, all done by herself, but done slowly.
The hardest part for her was flipping the rope over from behind her to
get it over her head. How to get round that? I think that sliding a
light tube over a section of the rope could add some weight and make it
easier to flip the rope over. Maybe. That could be called something like tube-skipping. (I need to experiment with that.)
the football problem above - that of my daughter being scared to head
the ball - the way ahead there could be to build up the difficulty by
inventing different kinds of ball-heading:
Push-head: You hold the ball against her forehead and she just has to push it away. Easy!
Inch-drop-head: You drop the ball just once inch for her to power it away.
The still-head: Her task is to stand perfectly still while you throw the ball at her head from a increasing distances.
Summary: Here's a tl; dr for people who were too lazy to read the article (yes, that should be: people who don't like to read long articles)
1) Instead of applying a label when a task is achieved, use the verb "can".
2) Think of tasks - both those achieved or not achieved - in terms of cans and can'ts. List as many cans and can't as you like instead of using one "inert" label.
3) Invent a simpler form of a task that a child can do, and give it a name.
So these are thoughts on the Carol Dweck growth mindset ideas from the perspective of someone who's done a lot of CBT.
* It would seem that in the writing of this article I have invented the word "headerer".