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Reflections Magazine : Reflections Magazine Issue 53 Summer 2013
12 Author: Freya Lucas Early Childhood Consultant Gowrie Training Centre & Professional Support Coordinator, SA A Mindset for Learning: using a growth mindset within early childhood The image of the child in the Reggio Emilia approach is one of a rich, competent, capable theory builder. This construct could be the image of the teacher as well, but to accept this image we must first embrace theory in our practice. One such theory was recently explored by Gowrie SA team members, both at the June 2013 conference “Young Minds – How do we grow a good person?” *, and on a study tour of several early childhood services in New Zealand. This theory is the work of Carol Dweck, and the concepts of mindsets or beliefs about children’s (and our own) abilities to learn and progress. Carol describes two mindsets or beliefs about our learning ability that affects how both adults and children respond to challenges: the fixed mindset and the growth mindset. While both mindsets exist on a continuum, and people can learn to channel and change their mindsets, if we continue through life with the belief that intelligence and ability is fixed and can’t change, this can limit and undermine our motivation and learning, and can place limits on the lenses with which we view the children in our care. Holding a fixed mindset, educators and children are likely to believe that performance and product are the goals, that learning is a pre-determined destination, and that, in the face of challenge, ability is the only way to overcome setbacks, devaluing effort and the opportunity to trial a number of different solutions. Often those with a fixed mindset view that which does not meet their expectations (such as an unexpected result, or a planned experience not working the way they thought it would) as a failure, and as a sign of something lacking within them. Linking these perceived “failures” to their own lack of ability, those with a fixed mindset can opt out of “difficult” learning and can be reluctant to embrace change and trial new things. Those holding a growth mindset, however, are able to be resilient in the face of frustration and “failure” and believe that effort can lead to success. Process and evolving product become the malleable goal, with our self-efficacy1 shaping our attitude, motivation and commitment to learning. Dweck believes that a growth mindset leads to a desire to learn, to embrace challenges, to persist in the face of setbacks, to see effort as the path to mastery and to find lessons and inspiration in the success of others. This links with the image of the child as one who is rich, competent and capable, and links too, with learning frameworks which call upon educators to be deliberate, purposeful and thoughtful in their decisions and interactions (DEEWR, 2010). So what might a growth mindset look like in action? How can educators incorporate Dweck’s ideas into their reflective thinking, philosophy and documentation? Recently educators from Gowrie SA were lucky enough to attend a study tour of New Zealand exploring the use of Learning Stories within early childhood services. One consistently powerful thread of learning they found woven through service explorations was Carol Dweck’s work on mindsets. At Roskill Kindergarten in Auckland, educators have been undertaking team reflections on how the Mindset theory manifests in their service, noting that the research they have undertaken into mindsets links into their beliefs that children are highly motivated, self-directed learners. * Self-efficacy is the measure of the belief in one's own ability to complete tasks and reach goals. reflections.issue53_Layout 1 11/11/13 2:27 PM Page 12
Reflections Magazine Issue 52
Reflections Magazine Issue 54