Posts Tagged ‘mindset’

Deficit (noun): Inadequacy or insufficiency, an unfavourable condition or position, to be lacking or a shortage. From the Latin – it lacks
Developmental (noun): The act of developing from a simpler or lower to a more advanced, mature or complex form or stage

I received a call this morning from a teacher friend of mine. Claire is a second year out teacher who began her teaching career after a varied and wondrous life journey. Her life is a litany of success and achievement. She has been a nationally ranked gymnast, playwright, leader of transformational seminars, managed sales teams, mother, and carer. She rang me because she needed to talk to someone who understood the life of a teacher but was outside her school environment.

star Moving from a Deficit to a Developmental Mindset

(c) Richard Stine

Claire felt that she was struggling at school. The school had asked her this year to step up to co-coordinate and rejuvenate English at a critical year level whilst taking on managing the school play and teach more classes. The school leadership team obviously thought a lot of Claire and her capabilities otherwise they would not have given her this opportunity. Claire’s challenges echo that of most teachers in the profession – the feeling that there is never enough time to get everything done that you need to do, let alone what others expect of you. Claire was currently experiencing her work as never being complete to her satisfaction, teaching as well as she would like to with a particular group, as well as having times of being overwhelmed. Much of her concern was self-talk about not being enough and that other staff members were judging her performance.

In my experience this is a common feeling amongst teachers. With the relentless day-to-day nature of education many teachers rarely have the time to neither reflect deeply nor acknowledge the progress they make each and every day. The feeling of needing to be constantly driven yet never enough is familiar to many. It is an experience of deficit – and I assert it is symptomatic of the paradigm in which education currently swims.

Recently in my work with a school to create supportive structures to empower and develop teachers I had a blinding insight about what we were actually trying to achieve – and it was far larger than I had anticipated and could explain why “performance” and “teacher evaluation” was resisted by many teachers.

Human beings, for the most part, live in a deficit paradigm. It is everywhere. It is in how we see ourselves, how we see the world, how the media portrays the world, in how politics is currently working, it is endemic in our schools. It is how companies sell us products, programs and desires. We aren’t doing enough, productive enough, rich enough, thin enough, smart enough, careful enough, etc. The recent viral Dove Real Beauty Sketches are a perfect example of how people see themselves from a deficit paradigm and the impact of that viewpoint.

Our education systems are then built upon this deficit thinking. We need to “improve” our schools. We need to “evaluate” or “appraise” our teachers and get rid of the bad ones and pay the good one’s more. Politicians use the language of deficit and impose deficit thinking models on schools and school systems. They look at other countries like Finland and Singapore through deficit eyes. If you just look at the language alone (e.g. ‘appraisal – the act of estimating or judging the nature or value of something or someone’) I am not surprised teachers and schools are resisting this thinking.

If you look at ANY high performing school, school system, team, organisation anywhere in the world, the paradigm that they operate from is one of nurturing, growing, building and development. This is not the language or viewpoint of deficit. There is nothing lacking but something to grow and nourish. Two recent TED talks by Rita Pierson and Sir Ken Robinson both point vividly to this.

Currently, we are immersed in a world of deficit and because of this we develop learning in schools from this mindset and we relate to one another from a deficit mindset. Our school structures hamper and hinder developmental thinking. Teachers need time to think, to reflect, to develop, to grow. Running from one class to another limits this. To improve performance in schools we must create structures for teachers to develop their own meta-cognition as a core part of being a teacher (or as I like to refer to them – master learner).

If we wish to create and transform the education system to unleash the potential of young people (and of ourselves) it is critical we create a developmental mindset and view the world through the eyes of “developing from a simpler or lower to a more advanced, mature or complex form or stage”. When something is developing it experiences stages of growth and stages of challenges. It needs to be nourished and watered and fed to grow.

The real battle we need to be fighting is one of context.

Inside a developmental paradigm there is empathy for the stage of development people are currently at. There is not judgement just an acknowledgment. It allows for acknowledgement of progress, and celebration. It realises there are muscles to build, and capacities to grow. In the realm of agriculture one does not judge the value of a plant and ask it to improve. We create an environment for it to flourish and grow. That is what we are actually trying to do with students and staff in schools – aren’t we? In fact, I assert that wherever you find a great teacher, a great school, great parents, great coaches, great teams and high performance – you will find this paradigm. Not surprisingly you will also find habits, structures, practices and actions that develop and grow learning.

My coaching to Claire was simple. As we spoke she became clear how hard she was on herself. She saw that she could have a lot more empathy for herself and also share and communicate with people at the school what she is dealing with right now and what support she would like. She left clear and empowered.

How does deficit thinking play out in your school? Where do you struggle with deficit thinking? Where do you see developmental thinking?

Mindset Dweck Carol 194x300 Fixed versus Growth Mindset

Have you ever noticed that different students have different attitudes towards learning?

Have you noticed that your more highly accomplished students relate differently to failure and what it means to develop mastery in an area? Have you noticed that some of your students take it quite personally and experience helplessness when they fail?

Carol Dweck, a Stanford University psychologist, has written a fabulous book called “Mindset: The new psychology of success” that I thoroughly recommend for all parents, educators and organisations.

mindset Icon Fixed versus Growth Mindset

In its essence, Carol points out that it is the mindset that critically defines whether we are going to learn well or not, how we behave in relation to failure and effort, and how we pay attention to information. This is supported in work by Steve Zaffron and David Logan’s (Three Laws of Performance) and Dan Pink’s Drive.

What Carol points out is that there are two mindsets (and we have one of these two mindsets in different areas of our lives) – Fixed or Growth.


Fixed Mindset

  • Holds the belief that intelligence and talent are fixed traits
  • Talent alone creates success. Effort will not make the difference.
  • You either get it or you don’t.
  • Time is spent documenting intelligence or talent instead of developing them.
  • Holds belief that results are ~35% effort and 65% ability
  • Teaches in long CHUNKS of time and then CHECKS at the end
  • When confronted with a failure the normal response is HELPLESSNESS and “I can’t”
  • Under-represents past successes and over-represents past failures.

Growth Mindset

  • Holds belief that most basic abilities can be developed through dedication & hard work – brains and talent are just the starting point
  • A love of learning & resilience is essential for great accomplishment (& virtually ALL great people have them)
  • Attitude is that you can ALWAYS learn and grow
  • Holds belief that results are ~65% effort and 35% ability
  • Teaches in short CHUNKS of information and allows time to CHEW knowledge before CHECKING
  • Chooses more challenging tasks because it is about growth
  • When confronted with a failure the normal response is “I’ve learnt something” and “OK. What now?”
  • Failure is an opportunity to grow
  • Focuses on what they are learning not their feelings
As a parent, teacher or manager, what is important to understand from the two mindsets is that both can be developed and reinforced. If you are interested in developing a growth mindset then you need to look at how you praise people, the structures and practices of the home, school or work environment, and especially the self-awareness of the individual.

Fixed Mindset praises intelligence and talent

  • this increases cheating
  • sets performance goals but creates helpless response
  • undermines motivation

Growth Mindset praises the effort that led to success

  • Allows for growth because it reinforces the behaviour of effort
  • Encourages learning goals and a mastery response
  • Increases motivation and success
  • It empowers students because it allows them to struggle and overcome obstacles
One of the areas that Cathryn and myself are working upon is exploring with teachers how they are setting up growth mindset structures and conversations. As Kathleen Kryza and John Hattie expresses in their books, are teachers being intentional and transparent and making learning and learning outcomes visible?

As we work with teachers we are keenly listening for their thinking and speaking. Are they setting up learning activities and environments that develop a growth mindset? Are they speaking and listening to the students with the intention of developing a growth mindset?

We do this purposely because we know that if they aren’t intentionally developing growth mindsets than the impact of any other work we do with them will not make ANY difference.

What do you think?

dweck mindset Fixed versus Growth Mindset