Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Fossilized, fixed, growth or innovative? What's your mindset?

There has been much written about the difference between fixed and growth mindset. Basically defined, a person with a fixed mindset is one who:
  • avoids challenges
  • gives up easily due to obstacles
  • sees effort as fruitless
  • ignores useful feedback
  • and is threatened by the success of others.
A growth mindset is one who:
  • embraces challenges
  • persist despite obstacles
  • sees effort as a path to mastery
  • learns from criticism
  • and is inspired by others' success
A fixed mindset sees intelligence as static and desires to look smart. A growth mindset believes intelligence can be developed and has a desire to learn.

This all comes from Dweck's book, Mindset: The new psychology of success.

However, I have started to notice extensions of these two mindsets. Let's start with a fixed mindset:

Fixed mindset people "know" what will work and won't work. They are "yes, but" people. "Yes, I hear what you are saying, but here are the reasons why it won't work." When confronted with a new idea, they are programmed say no because, either they don't understand it, or they are already comfortable with their current strategy of dealing with the situation regardless of how cumbersome or teacher-centric. They are squarely box thinkers.

However, they have a box. I believe that fixed mindset people can move if you can propose a new idea they clearly comprehend and understand how this new thinking will benefit their situation.

Think of this situation: a teacher has been handing out 3x5 note cards the first day of school to collect names, addresses, lunch numbers, (Heaven forbid) parent email addresses, and what they did over summer vacation (the first thing Mrs. Honeycutt did the first day of 5th grade minus the email thing. No internet then.) Nowadays, all of this is now easily done via your LMS, but this teacher has been doing this very thing since I was in 5th grade and that is how we going to do it. Now let's say this teacher has access to a computer lab or maybe they are in a 1:1 environment. What if you, a tech savvy educator that may have helped with some technology integration or a team member who wanted to help a teammate, offered to set up a Google form where each kid could log in, using their school issued GAFE email address, and collected that information digitally. You then explained how the responses were housed in Drive, the resource we covered in our last staff meeting. And, extending the suspension of disbelief...they used it.

What did you just witness? They still are box thinkers, but...

They moved their box just a bit towards growth.

This ability of a fixed mindset think saves them from the moniker of the fossilized mind set. For this person, there is no hope. They have fortified the walls of their box with concrete and razor wire. No one is getting in, and they are not getting out. Avoid at all costs.

Okay, moving over to growth mindset.

I am someone with a growth mindset. I learn for the sake of learning. I fail with purpose. Someone with a growth mindset is pleased when a lesson or an idea goes well, but is always looking for a new, and hopefully better, way to approach teaching or technology integration to deepen the learning. To make it more effective.

Personal.

The problem with growth mindset people is they are...growing. They continually change while the people around them may not. This creates a disconnect from those in your sphere of contact who are either growing at a slower rate or fossilizing. The space that is created by the variation of movement can lend itself to feelings of misunderstanding to incongruity. The thought, "I'm thinking differently than others. What do I do?"

 Growth mindset people can start to turn into dreamers where they step out of their box, light a match, and set it on fire. They become what if people. They start to think of ideas without constraint and enter the realm of no box thinking.  At this point growth mindset people can become frustrated and disillusioned. They have all of these ideas, but start to lose grip how to put legs to their ideas.

How do you move from growth to innovation? Let me tell you a story:

I wrote a post a while ago called The Two Kinds of People I Need in my PLN: Dreamers and Grounders. After writing the "Two Kinds of People" post, I get an email from a member of my PLN. This person asked," What type of person would you call me? A dreamer or a grounder?"

In that question I realized what an innovator is. To move to the innovative mindset you must be able to make dreams a reality. Innovators dream with hard edges. They approach no box thinking with a plan. How can I accomplish this dream? How can I explain the dream to others? How does that effect student learning?

This is my goal.

However, I believe mindsets fluctuate based on situation. I have an innovative mindset on education, but I follow the Chicago Cubs. Come every Spring Training, my fossilized mindset still believes the Cubs could win it all....

I would like to give credit Gary Scholtens (@gscholtens) and Theresa Turpin (@mrsturp) for all of their conversations and wisdom while writing this post.

Your comments are welcome and encouraged,

Dane Barner

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