Label kids – Limit kids.

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On Friday 22nd July, my colleague Ray Francis and I had the privilege of presenting a workshop at the AIS Pastoral Care Conference. The keynote speaker was James Nottingham. He gave an insightful, entertaining and at times, touching talk on the concept of Mindsets.

Mindsets 101

In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort.

In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.

Mindsets in Education

Using these definitions, let’s assume that growth mindsets are essential in nurturing a genuine love of learning. What does your school do to promote that?

Having spent time with Carol Dweck, James Nottingham spoke with passion and authority on the huge disservice we do to kids when we label them – even with labels we think are complimentary.

He and Dweck suggest that by labeling kids – we limit them. With labels like bright or gifted we create children with “fixed” mindsets who are afraid to take risks for fear of failure and losing their “status”.We create kids (and parents) who are only concerned with marks or grades, rather than the process of learning.

Then there are the children who underperform because they’ve been given the negative labels, as Nottingham mentioned, at school he visited, the groups were Diamond, Gold, Silver and Charcoal.

My immediate reflection of James’ talk was to ask how many staffrooms are gripped by a fixed mindset? You may remember my Pressure Fear Relief talk touches on a similar topic.

How many schools sell themselves on the notion that they are the “top-ranking” school in the HSC? How many schools publish their NAPLAN scores as a medal of educational honour?

How many teachers have a fixed mindset about ability and learning? (according to Nottingham about 80%!) And how does this impact on the education of our students?

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