Acronyms are a common way to shorten ideas into smaller words. We use them for the names of entities (NFL, FBI) and as mnemonics (like RICE and ROY G. BIV). We can also use acronyms to abbreviate inspirational ideas. Here’s an acronym I created to exemplify an idea of growth mindset:
I created this acronym because I wanted to think of something that could help me remember to MOVE. It resonates me because a strategy that I employed during my freshman year was saying yes to any opportunity I had even a vague interest in doing. It really helped me make friends, learn to be uncomfortable, and realize the things I did and did not like to do. This acronym certainly exemplifies growth mindset because it encourages healthy risk-taking and contemplation of those decisions. It also nods at our agency in creating opportunity for success. We need to do things that allow us to achieve success rather than waiting for those things to fall into our laps. I hope my acronym will inspire others to try new things and to value those opportunities because each can be a great learning experience.
Cats are the best. Dogs are great, don’t get me wrong, but I love cats. They’re full of personality, they’re fluffy, they’re squishy, and they’re downright cute. I love my cat, and usually he’s the only reason I’m homesick. I can call my parents whenever I want, but I can’t talk to my cat.
Cats are also naturally curious, which why they’re a great mascot for Carol Dweck’s Growth Mindset, which I talk about here. Here are a few cat memes that demonstrate growth mindset ideas:
I chose this cat because I love a good pun, and also, he’s such a chunky kitty! His caption is a great example of growth mindset because learning is done best when it is a self-motivated pursuit. The best projects in grade school were the ones with loose instructions, where you could pick your topic or your format. They were good because you got to choose what interested you, which made you want to try harder and learn more. When we drive our own learning, we’re more likely to take risks or choose more difficult tasks because we get a sense of ownership of our work.
I wanted to keep the “driving cats” theme going, so I chose this kitten. Isn’t he cute? This picture is about more than just enjoying a drive through town; it’s about learning. When we appreciate the learning as a process rather than as a quantifiable end result, we give more depth and meaning to the exercise. It also means we use failure as a growth point, or that we understand that we go at our pace, or that we give ourselves time to be curious. Learning is not a race; he who finishes first doesn’t necessarily learn anything more than those who take time to savor the process of learning.
…I couldn’t find another cat in a car, so I chose this handsome kitty. He reminds me a lot of mine, who is also orange and gets into things that he shouldn’t. The meaning of this picture is the same as the one above: learning is a process. This cat is taking his time to learn about the flour on this table. He may learn that it makes a mess, which makes Mom mad. He may learn that it gets stuck in his fur and tastes funny. He may learn that he really likes to throw it around, and pushing it off the counter may be the most fun thing he’s ever done (at least that’s what my cat would do). Like this cat, when we find something new to learn, we should approach it with curiosity and enjoy the learning, not just the end result.
I’ve always had a bit of an interest in educational theory, not because I wanted to be an educator, but because in elementary school, I was placed in our district’s “gifted” class. Since then, I’ve been trying to figure out what that means about how I learn. I’ve done some exploring of educational research, but I had never heard of Carol Dweck’s “Growth Mindset” until now. Growth mindset is all about believing that intelligence is not a fixed trait. Rather, it is something that can be developed through time and effort. Instead of assessing students–and ourselves–on a quantifiable basis (i.e. how many math problems were completed correctly) we should instead assess and praise the effort put forth. Essentially, Dweck believes that we should encourage students to excel at the process of learning rather than the end result. I was very impressed to see that there’s been significant scientific research to show that these ideas aren’t just sentimental; they can actually help students achieve more.
One of my formative memories of my education is of going to a Montessori preschool. This means I was in charge of my own learning, more or less. I could choose to read picture books, play with animal figurines, or help make a snack whenever and for however long I wanted. I think this experience led me to become a self-motivated student. My pursuits of learning have always come from innate curiosity, which, according to Carol Dweck, is probably a major reason why I have achieved highly in school. I’m so glad that my parents–and school teachers–chose to teach me in a way that allowed me to learn the value of effort and curiosity instead of just telling me that I was smart. That would have been pretty easy for them–certainly easier than entertaining a hyperactive and precocious toddler–but I would not have the love and breadth of knowledge that I do now.
Dweck says that if a student completes an assignment and feels that it was easy, then that student was not being challenged enough. I can see that this makes sense, and it’s for this very reason that I was glad to be in gifted classes often. Those classes were accelerated, and the teachers were very good at finding the right ways to challenge each student. We had very few students in each class, which allowed that kind of attention from the instructor. However, I’m not sure how this idea could practically be put into practice in a modern classroom. Regardless of whether students have innate levels of intelligence, they are still going to move at different paces, and what it easy for one third of the class might still be challenging to the rest. How can a teacher trying to teach 30+ students a full curriculum in a six-hour school day manage to individualize lessons and assignments enough to appropriately challenge each student? Perhaps Dweck would suggest to give all of the students the challenging assignment and then praise the effort of the students who are still struggling greatly, but too much of a challenge will still be discouraging, and the students may not be able to fully grasp the material in time.
Regardless, having a flexible mindset about ability and achievement is almost always better than a fixed one, especially in areas outside of traditional education. I’m a musician, and I practice often so that I can learn new skills and hone old ones. If I believed that I only had a set amount of musical talent, then I would have no reason to practice. Anything that I could not play the first time, I would believe to be out of my reach. Likewise, if I mastered a piece, I would believe that I would never have to practice that piece ever again. Neither statement is true. A common thing musicians talk about is that for some of us, it may only take 20 minutes to learn a particular passage, and for others, it may take two hours a day for a week. But regardless of that time, we believe that everyone can put in enough effort to eventually learn the passage. I believe this is a great example of having a growth mindset in the real world.
I really like when Dweck talks about the value of the word “yet,” which adds so much more potential and opportunity to a failure. It reminds me of when I tried to read a Jules Verne novel in late elementary school. The language of the book was dense and nearly impossible for me to read even though I had been told that I had an extremely high reading level. Instead of becoming discouraged and thinking that I wasn’t smart enough to read the book, I decided that I just wasn’t ready yet. I set the book aside for several years and was able to read it much more easily in early high school. I think having a “not yet” mindset would really help a lot of students who I know have been discouraged by past failures and have decided they simply can’t do things.
I’ll be very interested to learn more about growth mindset this semester and to start consciously applying it to my work in and out of class. I think the idea may be flawed in small ways, but overall, it’s a very positive way of thinking and a great way to approach a challenge or even a failure.