I've been on a bit of a Carol Dweck kick for the last month or so, since reading her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. There are so many reasons you should be, too. At the core of her research is the critical and empowering insight that our ability to choose beliefs about ourselves (our intellectual abilities, relationships, and even personality) actually influences our capacity and outcomes. Dr. Dweck builds on the idea of neuroplasticity (here's a two-minute video on the topic) and core beliefs we have about ourselves. Instead of spending time here summarizing Dr. Dweck's points, I'm going to send you over to brainpickings.org and a video below, both of which are fairly brief, and very worth your time.

Brainpickings' "Fixed vs. Growth: The Two Basic Mindsets That Shape Our Lives" offers an excellent overview of her research. If this article and the video of Dr. Dweck below don't convince you to read her book, then I'm not sure what will). From the article:

"One of the most basic beliefs we carry about ourselves, Dweck found in her research, has to do with how we view and inhabit what we consider to be our personality. A “fixed mindset” assumes that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are static givens which we can’t change in any meaningful way, and success is the affirmation of that inherent intelligence, an assessment of how those givens measure up against an equally fixed standard; striving for success and avoiding failure at all costs become a way of maintaining the sense of being smart or skilled. A “growth mindset,” on the other hand, thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities. Out of these two mindsets, which we manifest from a very early age, springs a great deal of our behavior, our relationship with success and failure in both professional and personal contexts, and ultimately our capacity for happiness."

Watch and share Carol Dweck's video on "not yet". Realize her research is powerful, but also one perspective (and not our intent to minimize real challenges that disability may bring). Though her research may not change diagnoses, it may change outcomes. Additional challenges to recognize are the very real pressures of learning in current educational systems that tie self-worth to grade attainment (conversations for another day, but definitely worth mentioning, I think). I think Dr. Dweck's work seems to address an angle of this, but not entirely, and that's okay- it gives one powerful place to start from.

Below are some thought-provoking questions you might use with your students (perhaps after showing them the videos above):

  • What does it mean to believe? What is it to believe in something, in yourself?
  • What do you currently believe about your abilities (academically, socially, physically, mentally..in math...as yourself as a writer...self-image, etc.)?
  • Have you ever changed your beliefs? What was it like to change them?
  • Which belief would you like to change about yourself in terms of yourself as an academic student?
  • Which belief would you like to change about how you understand yourself as a person with a disability or condition?
    • List a limiting belief by writing it down.
    • Play with the words you have written to change the belief- at least for now, even in how it's written.
    • Practice reading and saying the new belief every day.
  • Where in your life might you try out the perspective of "not yet"? Is there another phrase you can come up with? Perhaps, "I'm on my way", or "I'll get it soon", or just the idea that challenges can sometimes be fun.

Parents, educators, this is for us, too, right? Where might our beliefs about ourselves as educators and parents need some shifting?

As always, enjoy the journey :).