Experiential Learning & the Value of Personal Narrative in teaching {{Growth Mindset}}

Hello rethinked…* ! I have been travelling quite a bit these past few weeks, but last Friday I had the chance to attend a great Mindset workshop at Riverdale Country Day School run by the wonderful Mai Kobori and Lisa Grocott from Parson’s THRIVING learning lab. The workshop was a bit of a prototype on how to use experiential learning and personal narrative to instill the idea of growth mindset. Elsa has a great summary post about this construct here. Generally the idea is that a person with a fixed mindset believes that their ability at a given thing is fixed and unchanging, and therefore puts in less effort (since effort is meaningless) and is less likely to seek challenges or take risks. Alternatively, students with a growth mindset believe that ability is flexible and improves with effort and practice. We all hold different fixed or a growth mindsets in a variety of domains (and we hold different ones for different things). For example, I may believe that my running ability is fixed, but my reading ability can grow.

Lisa and Mai used this video below to drive the concepts home, and I think it does a really great job of summarizing the basic findings around this construct:

In the workshop, we discussed times in our own lives when we experienced the symptoms of a fixed mindset, thought about metaphors for these ideas, and then we broke into groups and developed short narratives using Adobe Voice that presented the transition from a fixed to a growth mindset using metaphor. The use of personal narrative in small groups cultivated trust and encouraged vulnerability which undoubtedly strengthened the program. Additionally, I think the method of inventing and creating stories to instill the growth mindset is a great way to teach these concepts in an engaging way. Prior to this, I had mostly heard of lecture-based approaches where students learn that their brain is a muscle. If I were a teacher, I would definitely use this method in my own classroom.

I worked in a group that focused on the idea of effort seeming futile. We all shared our own personal struggles with fixed mindset and ultimately developed the following short story using carnival games as a metaphor. We sought to express the idea that effort seems futile when you aren’t actually measuring effort (but rather chance), and perhaps you should refine your instrument and take a new perspective before throwing in the towel. Check it out below:

While we only had about 20 minutes each to develop our videos, it would be interesting to give students more time with this tool to see what they could develop. Ultimately, I see a TON of promise in using this sort of pedagogy to promote character education.





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