Mindset: The Difference Between Good Teachers and Great Teachers

After reading Mindset by world-renowned Stanford University psychologist Dr. Carol Dweck, I have gained new insight into the field of education. Dr. Dweck, in decades of research on achievement and success, has discovered a truly groundbreaking idea - the power of our mindset. Dr. Dweck states, "For twenty years, my research has shown that the view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life."

Dr. Dweck suggests that there are only two types of mindsets in this world. The fixed-mindset and the growth-mindset. In her book, she writes about the difference between fixed-mindset teachers and growth-mindset teachers.

In her research, Dr. Dweck found that "Fixed-mindset teachers often think of themselves as finished products. Their role is simply to impart their knowledge. But doesn't that get boring year after year? Standing before yet another crowd of faces and imparting. Now that's hard."

In contrast, Dr. Dweck found that "... human qualities, such as intellectual skills, could be cultivated through effort." This is what she refers to as the growth-mindset. Dr. Dweck believes that "In this mindset, the hand you're dealt is just the starting point for development. This growth-mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts."

Alfred Binet, the inventor of the IQ Test, once said, "Without denying individual differences in children's intellects, he believed that education and practice could bring about fundamental changes in intelligence."

After reading and analyzing the Mindset, I have acquired several takeaways that I will always remember and apply to my teaching. I hope that you find my takeaways useful and valuable as much as I do.

My Takeaways

All students need to be challenged and nurtured. Below are some examples of what to say to students who are reluctant to participate in learning, provided by Marva Collins (Chicago Teacher).

"We have work to do. You can't just sit in a seat and grow smart ... I promise, you are going to do, and you are going to produce. I am not going to let you fail."

"None of you has every failed. School may have failed you, but you have never failed. However, you must help me to help you. If you don't give anything, don't expect anything. Success is not coming to you, you must come to it."

"I am not going to give up on you. I am not going to let you give up on yourself. If you sit there learning against this wall all day, you are going to end up leaning on something or someone all your life. And all that brilliance bottled up inside you will go to waste."

"If you do not want to participate, go to the telephone and tell your mother, 'Mother, in this school we have to learn, and my teacher says I can't fool around, so will you please pick me up?' "

For the love of learning: Quotes from the Mindset

Marva Collins (Chicago Teacher) "I have always been fascinated with learning, with the process of discovering something new, and it was exciting to share in the discoveries made by my students"

"What are growth-mindset teachers teaching students en route? To love learning. To eventually learn and think for themselves. And to work hard on the fundamentals."

"If schools are for learning, why aren't they just as much for teachers' learning?"

"I think about what I find fascinating and what I would love to learn more about. I use my teaching to grow, and that makes me, even after all these years, a fresh and eager teacher."

"A good teacher is one who continues to learn along with the students."

"It's been said that Dorothy DeLay was an extraordinary teacher because she was not interesting in teaching. She was interested in learning."

The difference between a Fixed Mindset and a Growth Mindset

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by Andreas Pizsa

Below are some FAQs from the Mindset.

What makes a great teacher?

"The great teachers believe in the growth of the intellect and talent, and they are fascinated with the process of learning"

Are mindsets a permanent part of your makeup or can you change them?

"Mindsets are an important part of your personality, but you can change them."

How can growth-minded teachers be so selfless, devoting untold hours to the worst students?

"The answer is that they're not entirely selfless. They love to learn. And teaching is a wonderful way to learn. About people and how they tick. About what you teach. About yourself. And about life."

Are great teachers born or made?

"It starts with the growth-mindset - about yourself and about children. Not just lip service to the idea that all children can learn, but a deep desire to reach in and ignite the mind of every child."

My Reflection on the Mindset

I am definitely a growth-mindset person, but I didn't always used to be. I discovered that I was a growth-minded person during my senior year in college. I became so passionate about education that I started to become an over-achiever and I realized that persistance and dedication could help me to achieve my life goals. Now, as a fourth-year teacher with a Master's in Education, I am beginning to notice that that my passion for learning continues to grow with each day passing.

A question that still bothers me is what separates a good teacher from a great teacher? I know what distinguishes them, but I still don't know why. Is it possible to get good teachers to become great teachers? If so, how? Does it start by their mindset changing from fixed to growth? If so, how can we effectively do that?

My goal as teacher-leader, is to continue to learn and grow with my students and help good teachers become great teachers. I truly believe that the research in this book coupled with my ambition and passion for education, will help me to achieve my goal!