Academic Lens: Growth Mindset

Posted by Scott Allenby


Jason Day won the PGA Championship Sunday afternoon with a stellar performance, holding off Jordan Speith down the stretch to claim the title. His journey to PGA champion alongside his coach and caddy, Colin Swatton, has been inspirational. Day’s response when asked the greatest impact Swatton has had on him relates directly to each of us as learners. “What’s rubbed off on me the most is that he’s always kind of questioning, okay, is this right? Is this wrong? Asking questions to the right people. To really be able to be open to learning and growing as a player and as a person, if you don’t do that, you stop getting better.”

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Each summer, Proctor’s faculty engage with summer reading to serve as a prelude to professional development initiatives throughout the year. This summer, faculty are reading Mindset by Carol Dweck and Make it Stick by Peter C. Brown, Henry L Roediger III, and Mark A. MacDaniel. Both books challenge us to think about the science of learning, particularly, how do we instill in ourselves and our students a growth mindset centered around persistent, continuous learning. While we acknowledge we each learn differently, Dweck writes of Benjamin Barber, an eminent sociologist, who famously said, “ I don’t divide the world into the weak and the strong, or the successes and the failures...I divide the world into the learners and the nonlearners.”

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We acknowledge learning can be challenging. And that's a good thing. If it were easy, would we really be growing? Both Mindset and Make it Stick discuss the depth of learning that occurs when a certain level of struggle is involved. The word struggle may have negative connotations, but insert a synonym and you have the same result: individuals who encounter challenges, and then work to overcome them through persistence and effort, have a profound learning experience that endures and becomes 'automatic'. 

Proctor Academy growth mindset

Jason Day’s statement after winning the PGA Championship alludes to his own growth mindset - always challenging the status quo to see how he can learn, evolve, and change in order to be better despite obstacles in his way.

As educators, we have the same responsibility. It is not enough to teach how we’ve always taught, to think we ‘nailed it’ last year with our students and run the same script this year. No, we must constantly seek opportunities to better connect with our students, to better guide their learning, and to challenge ourselves to grow alongside them. Summer professional development is certainly one way to do this, however, shifting our own mindset as teachers will most likely have the greatest impact of all on our students’ learning.

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We are each born with a unique set of abilities, but these abilities are not fixed...unless we allow ourselves to stop learning. What are you doing this summer to remain a learner?

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