Two mindsets that can change a child’s life

Thomas Edison once said, “I’ve not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”. His perseverance in the face of repeated failure eventually led to the invention of the light bulb.

Published: Mon 15 Jan 2018 09:04 CEST
Two mindsets that can change a child’s life
Students at Phorms are taught to have a 'growth mindset'. Photo: Phorms Education

Edison wasn’t ashamed to admit his discovery didn’t come to him in a light bulb moment. With each failure, he said, he simply found another way that didn’t work and persisted until one did.

Had he shrugged his shoulders and admitted defeat after 9,999 attempts, we may all still be living by gas lamp!

Edison didn’t think he was either capable or incapable of inventing the light bulb. Instead, he believed that if he put in the hard work he would eventually achieve his goal.

The belief that our basic qualities, like talent and intelligence, are firmly set traits is known as a ‘fixed mindset’ -- when someone decides they are either able to do something or they are not -- and it can result in a quickness to abandon tasks perceived as out of one’s natural ability.

The term was coined by Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, who argues we encounter and adopt this unproductive belief in childhood. Dweck suggests that, however well-meaning, the praise children receive contributes to this unproductive mindset.

But before we blame the parents, it’s not just their responsibility to steer children away from a ‘fixed mindset’. Teachers, too, play a pivotal role in imparting what Dweck calls a ‘growth mindset’, or the idea that the brain, like a muscle, grows stronger through hard work.

How to teach a 'growth mindset' in class 

The teachers at Phorms, a network of seven bilingual schools in Germany, use Dweck’s research to encourage children to develop a ‘growth mindset’.

“Talent is a ‘limiting factor’ in biology, meaning it can actually limit growth efforts and restrict maximum performance when not properly harnessed with appropriate learning techniques,” says Karl-Heinz Korsten, Head of School at the Phorms Campus Hamburg.

“Talent is inherent genetic potential, but it must be realised and developed through the ‘environmental’ factors of hard work and motivation,” he adds.

Dweck suggests using phrases like, “You really practiced that, and look how much you improved” and “See, you studied more and now your grade on this test is higher”. Eventually, children begin to recognise that hard work and effort is instrumental in improvement.

For the past couple of years, the staff at the Phorms School in Frankfurt, have been actively using Dweck’s techniques to encourage children to see the merits of hard work.

To foster the mindset, Robert MacLeod, head of year 4 and curriculum coordinator of the Phorms primary school in Frankfurt Taunus, tells the children how he learned to play the guitar.

He says that, at first, it was very difficult and that there was much to learn. Through perseverance, he explains, he learned how to play. This is followed by a lesson about ‘growth mindset’.

At the end of the lesson, MacLeod asks the students what someone with a ‘growth mindset’ would say to themselves if they wanted to learn the guitar. The children chime in with answers like, “I can do it, I just have to practice” instead of “I’ll never learn to play this song like a proper guitarist”.

It’s just one example of how a more productive and positive outlook is encouraged every day at Phorms network of bilingual, German-English schools. Find out more about Phorms’ philosophy and its private schools which are located in Berlin, Hamburg, Heidelberg, Munich, Frankfurt, and Neckarsulm.

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This article was produced by The Local Client Studio and sponsored by Phorms Education.



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