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Recipe for Success - A Message from Acting Deputy Principal - Students

At RGGS we will soon head into our final assessment block for 2021. Already, I am beginning to have conversations with some of our girls who are feeling overwhelmed by this event. Usually, I discover most of them have a fear of failure and ‘not measuring up’ to the standards they, not parents, have set for themselves.

Some of the most useful research around this way of thinking was done by Carol Dweck, an American psychologist who coined the terms ‘fixed’ and ‘growth’ mindset to describe the underlying beliefs people have about learning and intelligence.

When I speak with our girls about their concerns, they perceive nearly everything to be out of their control. They believe their qualities, including intelligence, are unchangeable, which is a ‘fixed’ mindset. When our daughters hold this belief, they fall into a pattern of needing to repeatedly prove to themselves, and others, that they are ‘good enough’. They evaluate every situation searching for confirmation of their intelligence, personality, or character. Will I fail? Will I look dumb? …

In summary, girls with a fixed mindset see performance in assessment tasks as a risky activity which may reveal to themselves and others that they are in some way inadequate. In addition, they sometimes believe that if a task requires their effort then it is proof they are not ‘smart/good enough’.

On the flip side, girls with a growth mindset believe their current abilities can be developed and improved through effort, application and experience. These girls see effort as a positive thing that can make you smart or talented. Girls with this mindset while possibly disappointed by failure, are not discouraged by it because they see themselves as learning. When they suffer a setback, they believe they can improve over time with greater effort. Comparing the two approaches, a growth mindset tends to create a passion for learning rather than a need for approval.

Interestingly, Dweck found the things we do as parents in the early years of our daughters’ lives, can influence which mindset they adopt in particular, the way we deliver praise. Research has found that praise focusing on strategies, effort or actions is far more effective at encouraging a growth mindset than praise linked to personal traits. For example, “You worked really hard for that mark” versus “You’re so smart”.

The good news is that a fixed mindset doesn’t have to stay fixed! With awareness and our support as parents and teachers, our girls can change the way they approach challenging tasks.

Courtney E. Ackerman (2021) suggests making a verbal commitment to building a growth mindset and offering effort-based praise as a great strategy for helping children to develop a growth mindset. She states that teachers and parents who want to guide children toward this mindset should also focus on:

  1. Improving themselves first; it’s extremely difficult, if not impossible, to build a growth mindset in others if it’s not a mindset you are also embracing for yourself.

  2. Go beyond the “mindset jargon” and inspirational quotes to truly focus on encouraging growth over achievement, and frame failure as opportunities to learn.

  3. Praise properly, focusing on their efforts rather than any inherent abilities.

  4. Embrace the word “yet;” as noted earlier in the section on building your own growth mindset, use the word “yet” with children to give them a sense that failure is not inevitable and that their current level of knowledge or skill is not immutable.

  5. Take advantage of mistakes children make; be ready to praise them for their efforts but also point out any issues in their approach and brainstorm better ways to handle the situation with them.

  6. Let kids fail; another vital part of building a growth mindset in children is to let them fail instead of showing them how to do everything. Trial and error is an important learning process, and children should be free to use it (Gerstein, n.d.).

Not only would a shift in mindset have an impact on their emotional and mental wellbeing but also on their enjoyment of schooling. As parents seeing our children happy and healthy is one of our greatest aspirations and achievements.

Nadine Kelly

Acting Deputy Principal - Students



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