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Non-Compliant ≠ Fixed-Mindset

July 9, 2017

 Trevor Ragan of gives an excellent overview of Growth Mindset. Follow him on Twitter


In a horse race, what do you suppose is most effective in getting the horse to go faster, the carrot or the whip? If neither work, does that mean the horse believes it can't go faster?


Growth Mindset is a term being used heavily in education right now.


Carol Dweck and her work has been foundational in developing our understanding of how a child's inner-belief that he/she can learn anything is the key to developing a positive learning identity. In fact, the Growth Mindset term is now being used at the adult learning level as well.


Administrators are beginning to understand that developing and maintaining a Growth Mindset for educators is just as important. After all, educators need to continue to learn, just like students in classrooms.


However, in face-to-face conversations I have, along with those through Voxer and Twitter, I'm beginning to hear Growth Mindset being used in a different context.


When top -> down initiatives are being executed and teachers aren't "complying," I hear administrators say, "They have a Fixed Mindset. They need to change their mindset."

I also hear this from classroom teachers to describe kids. 


This is a misinterpretation of the terms: Non-compliant ≠ Fixed-Mindset.


I can have the belief that I can learn anything, but that doesn't mean I have the will or motivation. I can believe that I have the capability to learn any new instructional strategy, but I may see the initiative as one that doesn't meet the learning/teaching needs in my classroom. Therefore, I'm not motivated to adopt it.


This does not mean I have a Fixed Mindset. A reluctance to learn what you put in front of me does not equate to a belief that I CAN'T learn it. 


It's like the old saying goes: You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink. What if the horse doesn't want water? What if it wants lemonade? Iced-Tea? Or a refreshing combination of the two in an Arnold Palmer? What if that Arnold Palmer better meets its thirst-quenching needs, more so than what you were offering?

If a horse with a Growth Mindset was given the opportunity to discover and seek what it is they need vs. having someone else tell them, would the motivation increase and therefore make both the carrot and whip obsolete?


I'd be willing to bet on that horse.


Jarod Bormann



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