John Hattie (the man behind Visual Learning) writes in EdWeek about incorrect interpretations of both his work and Carol Dweck’s work with Mindset:
Growth mindset was developed by Carol Dweck from a life time of careful and precise research work.
This is true for all educational theories. The researcher spends years developing a nuanced framework. But all that nuance gets tossed out the window once the idea starts spreading through word of mouth.
A Game of Educational Telephone
How many folks have promoted a concept like Dweck’s Mindset without having read her work! This leads to the following repeating pattern:
- Someone hears about a new idea third-hand.
- They tell others, using their own interpretation.
- Others implement it using their own understanding.
- Perhaps the district decides to “adopt it.” Now everyone is forced to use the idea. But has anyone read the original work?
- The results aren’t as impressive as promised — since the implementation was all wrong and expectations misaligned.
- The idea is tossed aside as old, invalid, or “bad teaching.”
- A new, new idea surfaces and the game of telephone repeats.
Look to Howard Gardner, who developed the theory of Multiple Intelligences. He never intended this idea to be used as “learning styles” in classrooms.
In fact, Gardner wrote an article in 2013 titled ‘Multiple intelligences’ are not ‘learning styles’! (Hat tip to Lisa for showing me this article).
This mis-interpretation of educational theory in classrooms is systemic and widespread. We, as educators, must read the original works before implementing these ideas with children!
When Is A Fixed Mindset A Good Thing?
Hattie, writing about Dweck, points out the following:
There is no general state to aim for called “I have a growth mindset” as we can have both fixed and growth, they have advantages at different times.
Has anyone promoting Mindset ever told you that there is an advantage to fixed mindset? Carol Dweck thinks there is. Heck, she wrote an article in EdWeek trying to clarify the misunderstanding of her work! Best quote: “Let’s legitimize the fixed mindset.”
Call To Action
So here’s my call to action. Before you promote (or implement) a new idea, make sure you’ve read the original work. In many cases, it’s easily accessible (seriously, Mindset is no dry, academic textbook).
If someone is hyping a new educational idea, ask them three things:
- Have you read the original work?
- What are the common misconceptions about the theory?
- What are the theory’s limitations?
Be thoughtful and skeptical. Every idea is limited. No educational theory is perfect. None will work for all students, at all grades, in all subjects at all times.
Let’s be discerning about what we believe. Let’s be professionals!
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