Disrupt   |  October 06, 2013

Instilling a ‘growth mindset’ for students

Research has shown that a child’s mindset, the way he or she views themselves and their learning capabilities play an important role in their overall success. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers and Dr. David “Dock” Dockterman from Harvard University join Karen Finney to discuss.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> earlier this year the conservative heritage foundation was forced to hire -- when details of his harvard dissertation, iq and immigration policy became public. richline proposed a startlingly bigoted theory between connections between race and intelligence . he wrote, quote, no one knows where hispanic will reach iq parity with whites. richwine's offensive premise suggests that intelligence is fixed. that it can't be developed or grown. which also contradicts vast neuroscience research that demonstrates every child as the capacity for intelligence and high achievement. the distinguishing characteristic is mind set, not skin color or immigration status. research has shown that the child 's mind set or the way he or she views themselves and their learning capabilities play an important role in their overall success. so in honor of our fourth education nation summit here at nbc and msnbc, as we're asking what it takes, as in what it takes for us as a nation to prepare students for college, career and beyond, we're examining what it takes to instill a growth mind set and what impact can that have on a child 's education. just a few months ago the obama administration convened a group of experts to discuss how a child 's belief about their abilities impact learning overall and overall achievement. as they noted in a blog post , quote, research demonstrates that when children learn their academic ability is not a fixed trait like eye color but instead is like a muscle that can grow and develop with hard work they do better in school. the most dramatic improvements are typically seen in low performing students, students of color and females in s.t.e.m. related courses. despite what jason richwine thinks, intelligence is a work in progress . which means that every child can grow their intelligence to create achievement. and it mean that our country can't afford to waste this human capital . which also means ensuring that every child has access to a quality education. joining us to discuss are two people who have devoted their careers to students and education. president of the american federation of teachers , randy winegarden. . adjunct professor of harvard professor of -- dr. david doctorsman, also known as dock. thanks to you both. i want to start with you. let's talk about the concept of the growth mind set. it seems intuitively it makes a lot of sense.

>> right. we all have fixed mind sept sets about some things and growth mind sets about others. places we think we're good at something or not. that's a fixed mindset. other places where our abilities, our natural abilities are just a starting point. we put in effort, we get better. you have them in your life. there are places where you say i'm just not that good at this. other places where you're willing to -- you're looking for challenges. you don't mind making mistakes. that's part of how you learn and grow.

>> one of the things, randi, i thought was so interesting about talking about this, it's the idea that just kind of normalizing failure, almost. right?

>> exactly.

>> that it's like a step two. i'm just going to keep trying. i got to come back at it.

>> what's happening is paul tough wrote this remarkable book this year about exactly this. he calls it perseverance or grit. when you think about it, there's three things -- first off, teachers always -- i mean, we're always into a growth mindset. because kids' brains are not fixed. what are we trying to do? we're trying to grow knowledge. we're trying to apply that. if you think about it, in terms of a school, we have to create a trusting environment for kids, teachers to thrive. we have to engage kids. not where we want them to be but where they are and help move them. and then we have to really create this perseverance, resilience, grit. because if kids know how to -- how to get up after they stumble and fall, that's probably frankly with all due respect the most important skill set we can teach a child . it grows confidence. it grows a sense of accomplishment. and it grows a sense of i can take the world.

>> you know, dock, i think about this particularly with struggling students. struggling readers. kids struggling in math. we know that so much of what's going on is low self-esteem. right? kids avoid things that make them feel bad. so you just don't go to that class. they get into such a cycle. what strikes me about this way of approaching their education, and i know you've been working with teachers and students to kind of rethink this, that it's okay if you fail. just keep trying. and that you can -- this idea that you can be a genius, actually.

>> right. learning is an effortful process. if we only did things that were easy we wouldn't be learning anything. we'd be practicing things we already knew. there's that mix of the willingness to get up and try again is kind of based on a belief that my next try will -- has a chance of success. i also have to have ways of what am i going to do differently? there is competence and confidence that have to be built together.

>> so what are the things that schools need, teachers need, to ensure that we are creating? this is the kind of environment i think we want in every school. not just in private schools or charter schools , but in every school. what are the tools, what are the things we need to make this happen?

>> one thing that was successful was teaching students about growth mindset. that your brain is like a muscle. it is really no pain, no gain. if you don't use it, it's not going to grow. exercising it. look for challenges. looking for challenges. expecting struggle. because that's an indication that you're learning. of course, it's hard. that means something good is happening.

>> so i've become a big believer. because we're in this huge -- are we fixated on tests or not and the standardized test kind of regime has taken over. i've spent a lot of time now talking to people about, okay, what can we do as alternatives to testing? this kind of project based learning . capstone projects. things like i did with my kids when i taught at claireborn high school . we engaged in debate society. the constitution and bill of rights . robotics. i think if we actually dealt with one, we have to deal with social emotional issues of kids. not just instruction. but in instruction, really create this engagement process, this effort process, that gets to an end where kids really start building things instead of just one day on a standardized test . that, i think, helps us get to this growth mindset.

>> it seems to me, dock, it helps us change our mindset about what is possible.

>> right, right. it's -- you have to believe that it's there. we have to be very careful in the words that we use. setting kids up the right way. if you start a lesson, say let's start with an easy one and a struggling student can't do the ease ci easy one, you're done. i can't do the easy one. this might take a few tries. you get it right away. you're feeling pretty good.

>> teachers have to say we take kids where they are. not where we want them to be. educate all children and the whole child .

>> thank you guys so much. i'm so excited to have had this conversation. randi weingarten and dr. david dockterman, dock. that does it for me. please don't forget to share your thoughts. find us on facebook and tweet us at&t @msnbcdisrupt. we'll see you here next saturday. sted it partner,