You received your child’s first progress report of the year and it is not very encouraging. It looks like it’s going to be a very long year. Are you going to enlist an array of tactics and tutoring just to get through this class? Or are you ready to build a long-term and long-lasting strategy to make more permanent changes?
The most effective strategy for learning has two parts:
1) Build up your child’s cognitive foundation skills, which include attention, memory, auditory and visual processing, logic and reasoning, and processing speed.
2) Change your own and your child’s way of looking at learning from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset.
Carol Dweck, Ph.D., writes about the second point in Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. People with a fixed mindset, Dweck says, believe that “human qualities (are) carved in stone,” that skills and abilities are set. “Growth mindset,” she writes, “is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts.”
One of Dweck’s research studies in this 2006 book is now a classic. Four-year-old children were offered a choice. They could redo an easy jigsaw puzzle or try a harder one. The children who believed their abilities were fixed and couldn’t change worked the same puzzles again and again. That’s how they reinforced their feeling that they were smart. The children with growth mindsets, who believed they could become smarter because abilities change, selected newer and more challenging puzzles and therefore were involved in active learning.
Dweck explains it this way: “As soon as children become able to evaluate themselves, some of them become afraid of challenges. They become afraid of not being smart. I have studied thousands of people from preschoolers on, and it’s breathtaking how many reject an opportunity to learn.”
Another fascinating study from Dweck’s team was with students transitioning to middle school. School records indicated the children’s abilities were indistinguishable from one another as they entered middle school. However, those students with fixed mindsets had declining grades, while those with a growth mindset saw their grades rise. The fixed group of students offered excuses and frequently blamed others for their errors. The growth-mindset individuals felt a new determination to meet the challenges ahead of them.
I read quite a bit of Dweck’s work during the time I was worried about my own daughter’s learning struggles and academic future. I fell in love with Dweck’s ideas because they focus on learning how to love the process of learning. My daughter and every child needs a love of learning to be able to handle life’s challenges.
Dweck’s book is not specifically about individuals who have learning struggles yet I feel the principles strongly apply to this population. For these children, we have to train weak skills. But parents and children also need a growth mindset for the child to progress. Dweck’s work is a powerful strategy for long-term strategic planning.
What beliefs you can encourage in your child to foster long-term learning and not just a short-cut remedy to pass a test?
* It is okay to make mistakes. Everyone does, and these are great opportunities for deep and memorable learning.
* Working through a problem is more rewarding than going around the issue.
* You are your own competition.
Some ways to encourage a love of learning:
When an A test comes home.
I love how you drew this picture that goes with your story
That was interesting that you found that reference from the newspaper to go with your paper
Point out something specifically well done.
Good job, an A!
I bet you’re the head of your class
Grades that aren’t so good
Well, it’s a setback but you’ll bounce back.
You’re a resilient person.
I couldn’t do that either, math is not in our famiy’s genes
I can happily say my daughter has developed this love for learning. Wikipedia is a site she frequents daily to find out more information. Books are everywhere in her personal spaces in our home. On her own, she decided to start learning the piano (she’s a clarinet player).
When we help children become strong in their foundation skills and encourage them to take on challenges in the right ways, we guide them to independence and a love for learning. The combination of improving weak cognitive skills and having a growth mindset are life-long strategic steps toward realizing one’s potential.