I have been obsessively researching growth mindset over the past few weeks. And one of the many misconceptions that I have discovered is around the idea of effort. It seems that many people believe that a growth mindset means trying and trying until you get it right. The more you practice, the better you get. So giving students lots and lots of practice must be the best way to help them improve on a skill? That’s what I though, at least, until I delved deeper on the topic.
But Carol Dweck, the psychologist who coined the term “growth mindset,” and other psychologists, namely Swedish psychologist Anders Ericsson, distinguish between what is often called “deliberate practice” and “uninformed effort.”
Deliberate practice includes getting feedback from an expert and examining mistakes in order to improve from them. It means learning as you go, not just meaninglessly repeating the same task over and over. So how do you encourage deliberate practice in your classes?
Start off with challenging material. It might go without saying, but if your students aren’t challenged by the material that you are giving them, they have nowhere to go. They won’t grow if they are expected to stay in the same place.
Teach your students multiple paths to finding the answer. Yes, I wish that all of my students organized their essays the way that I like, but I also know that this isn’t really the optimal situation. So I suggest a few ways to set up the paragraphs—just like I teach more than one way to analyze a poem or to write a reading log or to discover a thesis statement. Then, I let them figure out which way is best for them.
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