Is it true that growth mindset ‘doesn’t actually work’?

Elt-Resourceful- growth mindset

Growth mindset has become something of a buzzword over the last few years. While you would have to have been living under a rock not to have heard the term, you may well not be entirely sure what it means (and you wouldn’t be the only one, as we shall see).

What exactly is growth mindset?

It all started to hit the public consciousness with a piece of research done in 1998 by Carol Dweck and Claudia Mueller, who divided a group of 10-12 year olds into two groups. Both groups were told that they had done well on a test, but the first group were praised for their intelligence, while the second group were praised for the effort they had put in. Dweck and Mueller subsequently found that the first group didn’t want to take any risks that might make them look less intelligent, while the second group kept trying hard and therefore actually did better. The second group had more of a growth mindset.

If you decide that you are naturally bad at something, you may feel this is fixed, and therefore not even try, whereas in most cases you could improve through effort. Equally, if you are told you are naturally bright, you may shy away from trying anything difficult in case you show yourself up by failing. Therefore it is important to praise students for effort rather than for intelligence.

For a more in depth explanation, take a look at this video of Carol Dweck. 

I think most teachers would recognise the truth in this, and the idea has been pretty enthusiastically received. However, more recently there have been a number of articles and research studies stating that growth mindset ‘doesn’t actually work.’

Why might people think it doesn’t work?

First of all, the key ideas are not always very well understood. Sometimes teachers have interpreted it as ‘ if you believe you can do it, you can’- which is self-evidently nonsense. Or ‘everyone can do everything brilliantly if they just try hard enough’- also rubbish. Everyone can get better at something through practice, but that doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily ever be great at it. Growth mindset isn’t about wishful thinking.

Secondly, telling students about growth mindset or that they should have a growth mindset, is not the same as actually changing their mindset. Read this great article about that (thanks Gaby Lawson for sharing it with me). People can definitely change, but not because someone else tells them to. Beliefs about ourselves are usually very deeply engrained, even in children, and they don’t change overnight or because other people want them to. We also have to take into account the messages our students are likely to be getting at home, such as the parent who says, ‘Oh, you get being bad at maths from me.’

And a recent survey of teachers in the USA found that while 98% of teachers felt that growth mindset was a good thing, only 50% knew any strategies aimed at encouraging it. So, clearly we need to think more about how to help students (and teachers) develop it, rather than just exhorting them to put in more effort or think positive.

For the next blog post on ELT Resourceful I have invited Gaby Lawson, Teacher Developer at Monash College, to talk about her work on applying Carol Dweck’s research to teacher development.

2 Comments

Filed under mental set, motivation, Teaching methodology, Working with groups

Creativity and innovation

In this lesson plan designed for the British Council Teaching English site, we explore the topic of  creativity and innovation. This lesson was devised to mark World Creativity and Innovation Day on 21st April. However, it could be used at any time of year as this is not specifically mentioned.

The lesson begins by looking at what is involved in being creative, trying to expand this beyond the usual areas of art or creative writing.

The students then do a reading activity where they match the headings to each section. They then identify the synonyms which will have enabled them to do this task and focus on the idea of avoiding repetition. They read the text again and discuss which ideas they personally find most useful.

The lesson finishes with a creativity task, followed up by a final discussion.

Aims:

  • Encourage students to think about their own creativity and how they could develop it further
  • Expand students’ vocabulary and ability to avoid repetition using a range of synonyms
  • Provide reading and speaking practice around the topic of creativity and innovation

Age/Level:

Teenage learners at CEF level B2

Time:

50-60 minutes

Materials:

The lesson plan and student worksheets can be downloaded here

Leave a comment

Filed under classroom ideas, Reading, Speaking, Vocabulary

Sophie Scholl and the White Rose: a free downloadable lesson

Sophie Scholl lesson plan

A free downloadable lesson about Sophie Scholl, a young German girl who took the brave decision to stand up to the Nazis, during World War II. The lesson could be used to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27th, or at any other time of the year.

The lesson starts with a couple of lead-in discussion questions and then students watch a short trailer for a film about Sophie Scholl. Note that the film is in German with English subtitles. In this lesson the video is only used as a lead-in, the main input is in a reading text.

After watching the video, the students read the text to check their ideas. They then carry out an exam style note completion task, before matching some possibly unknown words in the text with their definitions.

The lesson is aimed at B2/C1 students.

To round up there is a final discussion task.

sophie scholl lesson plan

Download lesson plan PDF here: elt resourceful – Sophie Scholl and The White Rose

9 Comments

Filed under Exploiting authentic reading materials, Exploiting authentic recordings and videos, Vocabulary

What not to say to someone who stammers

blonde-1296489_1280

In this lesson plan designed for the British Council Teaching English site, students read a  first-person account by a person who stammers, about how he would prefer people to respond when he does so. After some discussion about the topic, the lesson goes on to focus on some different grammatical structures to express preference and sometimes annoyance: would rather/sooner, would prefer, wish. There is some practice using sentence transformation (as found in FCE) and then some more personalised practice.

Aims:

  • To help students understand more about stammering and how (not) to respond when someone stammers
  • To practise reading for specific information
  • To be able to use a range of structures for expressing preference and/or annoyance: would prefer, would sooner, would rather, wish.

Age:

Adults and older teenagers

Level:

CEF level B1+/B2 (especially useful for Cambridge First Certificate preparation)

Time:

45 minutes

Materials:

The lesson plan and student worksheets can be found and downloaded here

Leave a comment

Filed under classroom ideas, Downloadable lesson materials, FCE, Uncategorized

Using your brain: what neuroscience can teach us about learning

brain-1618377_1920

Considering that our brains are the key tool for learning, it is surprising how rarely teacher education focuses on neuroscience. Education is full of vague statements about only using 10% of our brains, or using the right or left brain, or being a kinaesthetic learner, but are these really based in science?

Friday 5th October 2018 is World Teacher’s Day and to celebrate I presented a free webinar as part of the British Council’s 5 on 5. In my session we looked at what recent research has to tell us about learning, looking specifically at motivation and memory, and how to apply these findings in the classroom to help students learn more easily and effectively.

You can watch a recording of the webinar here

Leave a comment

Filed under classroom ideas, memory, motivation, neuroscience, Working with groups

Changing ideas of beauty

Winnie_Harlow_Cannes_2018

In this lesson plan designed for the British Council Teaching English site, we explore the topic of vitiligo, an autoimmune condition which causes some people to lose pigment in their skin, and look at how attitudes are changing towards what does or does not make someone attractive.

This lesson was devised to mark World Vitiligo Day on 25 June. However, it could be used at any time of year as this is not specifically mentioned.

The lesson begins with students looking at a photo of a young woman with vitiligo and discussing their reactions to the photo. They then go on to read about a model with vitiligo, Chantelle Brown-Young (also known as Winnie Harlow- pictured above), and discover what makes her special. The lesson reviews a range of tenses that might be used in a biography of a living person and looks at how to organise such a text, before the students go on to write their own.

Aims:

  • To encourage students to question their perception of what is beautiful and become more tolerant of difference
  • To practise reading for specific information (true/false)
  • To revise a range of tenses that students should know at B1 level
  • To help students structure and write a biography-type text

Age:

Adults/older teenagers

Level:

CEF Level B1 (intermediate) or strong A2 (pre-intermediate)

Time:

45-60 minutes

Materials:

Teachers notes and student worksheets can be downloaded here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Downloadable lesson materials, Reading, Writing

A little bit of pressure does you good?

stress-2883648_1920

Speaking in English is something that many students find stressful or anxiety provoking. They can fear making mistakes, failing to understand the person they’re speaking too, or simply drying up. So shouldn’t we try to make speaking activities as stress free as possible?

There are certainly benefits to making sure students are well prepared, that they have the necessary language, that they have a clear idea of what the task demands. However, there are also some good arguments for not trying to remove all stress, and even adding some pressure at times

Read the rest of the article here

Leave a comment

Filed under classroom management, motivation, neuroscience, Speaking, Teaching methodology