A lot has been said lately about growth versus fixed mindsets. Growth mindsets keep us looking for improvement, instead of feeling that we are stuck being good or bad at something based on a few initial experiences. A growth mindset also fosters personal growth and helps us move away from comparing ourselves with others. We can be good at something if we put in enough effort.
Along with a growth mindset, let’s consider a few more thinking patterns that can maximize learning.
A Neurological Perspective
Experience drives how our brains develop.
Billions of tiny interconnecting neurons create pathways in our brains. The more times we do a task in the same manner, the stronger the pathway and the easier it is for us to repeat the task. If we want to change a pattern or create a new habit we have to consistently use our brains in a way that develops a new pathway. Setbacks while developing new habits happen when we are tired or not paying attention, they are only indicators that we need to mindfully perform the new pattern so that it will eventually become easier than the old one.
Research tells us that a perspective about the biological nature of our brain helps us to distance ourselves from blame and to creatively address our own behaviors.
Our interactions with others change perceptions and perspectives. Each interaction positive or negative leaves an impact on those around us and within our own brain. When we again meet, those memories and feelings return and are compounded with each encounter. So if I feel good about our past experiences together and feel that I am safe with you, then we communicate in a much more transparent and meaningful way.
Emotional walls come up and brain connections shut down when we feel judged. We become uncomfortable and respond awkwardly which only makes us feel and look more guilty. It has little to do with the intent of the speaker but by nature we are not comfortable when we are put on the spot in front of others or sense that someone doesn’t like us.
Discussions about communication patterns help students recognize that what we say influences others, even more than our thinking about them. Being able to accurately communicate our thoughts can be helpful toward tapping into the support of others, which insulates us from natural limiting fears.
What I Say Matters
When we are in a group our words can influence the outcome of the discussion. If I am willing to share my thoughts and perspectives then others learn about me. It might be scary at first, but speaking up can create an atmosphere of acceptance and understanding.
Discussions should not be sit-and-get, that’s why we have e-mail. If every group interaction invites participation then we foster cooperation and helpfulness. Team efforts are more supportive and engaging than independent work.
Schools and classrooms that encourage safe communication set the standard at learning by the comments of others and avoid the limits of singular perspective.
Differences are Okay
As we recognize and value how others differ from ourselves then we develop a sense of humanity.
Temperament, cognition, genetics, and environmental factors influence our actions but don’t necessarily need to limit who we become. An educator who is cognizant about how these influences interact can support maximum growth for all students.
Awareness of Others
If we view our world with an outward mindset we see challenges as something to be resolved. We see people as individuals with desires, interests, and needs. As we look outward we become aware of our impact on others. This awareness allows us to see others and ourselves in a real way, without pretense or gross expectation.
By contrast, an inward mindset looks to blame others, gather allies, and invites resistance. Focusing inward keeps us thinking that we are alone to solve our own problems and keeps us from asking questions or accessing support in other ways.
Schools that operate from an outward mindset naturally encourage growth, accountability, and cooperation.
Education has always been about broadening ones perspective and using it for the benefit of others. The disciplines discussed of neurology, sociology, and communication offer worth-while progressive insights that support international interests toward systematic growth in education. May we all keep sharing and molding perspective as we meet the needs of students wherever we may be.
See 4 Expert Interviews about Mindsets and Learning