Grit and a Mindset Revolution
After watching Angela Duckworth’s Ted Talk I tried to think of how a teacher could communicate to students the fact that, with effort and grit, everyone’s brain is capable of growing and that ‘smartness’ can be learned (Carol Dweck, 2006). One suggestion would be to allow teachers to show their classes a scientific demonstration of the brain’s plasticity. These demonstrations could be shown at the beginning of every school term. If such a show could be done in a maths class (due to its unfamiliar sorroundings) it could have a lasting positive impact on all students, including those stuck in the fixed mindset conundrum with doubts about their academic ability, and the high achievers who are playing it safe for fear of failure.
With all things happening in our education system, and the fact that our government is at the fore front trying to change the system for the better, it is surprising to learn that our schools are still practising student grouping based on ability (Blatchford et al, 2008). This is happening despite the ample scientific evidence regarding the damaging effect this culture has on students, regardless of age. I am able to bear witness to this practice as I have seen it taking place at my daughter’s infant school, where toddlers are put in different colour coded “achievement levels” groups, despite coming from the same class room. This shows how stubborn the education system can be to embrace change (Jo Boaler).
If we want improvement in our education system then both the society and the authority’s mindset must also change. It looks like there is little willingness within the public spectrum to accept that our education system and its nurturing of students need to change. While all scientific evidence from all corners of the world, including here, is pointing at the damaging effects the grouping of students according to their ability, has on their overall performance (Nunes et al, 2009), the Independent Primary Review in the UK, found that “ ….there are no consistent effects of structured ability grouping,…(Alexander, 2010). This is typical of a culture that does not want to embrace real change. It leaves me to wonder whether or not the fixed mindset is ingrained in the whole establishment per se, and that they are incapable of introducing growth mindset principles to the schools at large. Since on the international scene, Great Britain’s education performance is lagging behind those countries that are growth minded, and there is evidence of wide practice of fixed mindset principles in our schools, how would the whole independent review come up with a different result contrary to all research done before it and the available scientific evidence?
It is my hope that schools and teachers in the UK will soon embrace the growth mindset principles and encourage grit among the students by removing systems that instil the ‘fear of failure’ among high achievers and enhances the spirit of ‘am not smart’ among struggling students. Just like the Shanghai teachers at the seminar, teachers in the UK should also be allowed to value mistakes by students, from which whole classes could learn more of the topic.