In the month of May, people all around the world celebrate May the 4th - Star Wars Day! 'May the 4th be with you' (or should I say, 'May the force be with you') is heavily referred to as Growth Mindset.
If you Google mindset and Star Wars, reams and reams of pages, websites, posters, blogs, worksheets and videos pop up to explain the link. Yoda has a Growth Mindset and Darth Vadar has a Fixed Mindset. However, there is a huge problem comparing mindset with Star Wars. Mindset is not as simple as this. It is important that teachers and our children get to grips with the dark side of the force.
Mindset and Star Wars...Really?
When reading many of the sites that come up on Google, much of what they are describing is actually part of what we call a False Mindset. A mindset researched by Carol Dweck back in 2016, as she started to notice the impact of her book and the fact that it was not being interpreted in the way she imagined.
It would be really unwise to ignore the 'False Mindset' as it is so prevalent across the web. It really shows how what we see, isn’t always the truth…
The False Mindset?
The False Mindset has come from the way society has misinterpreted the Fixed Mindset that Carol Dweck coined in her research. Fixed Mindset has been deemed as bad, something to steer away from.
In posters and resources all over the internet, it's shown in colours of grey, black or red. Much like Vader himself! In contrast, Growth Mindset is shown as green and rainbow colours - for the enlightened learner. Yoda holds the crown!
Just like in Star Wars, it is almost as if the two mindsets are at war with each other. It is as if we must combat the evil threat that is locked in our minds! 'Stay away from the dark side Luke!'
If you truly want to understand the research that Dweck has dedicated her life to, you will understand that mindset is not like that at all. You see, no one is truly has just a Fixed or Growth Mindset. Everyone joins the dark side now and again.
We can place ourselves along, what James Anderson describes as, The Mindset Continuum. Your mindset is set somewhere on the continuum dependent on the topic or subject or the beliefs that you have developed unconsciously over a long period of time.
Lightbulb moment! We are not aiming to be Growth Mindset all the time. Instead, being on the continuum gives us the opportunity to nudge ourselves up and become more growth orientated. Like Luke, we are all trying to resist the dark side but sometimes we all have to accept that we have joined it - all be it for a short period of time.
Teachers set the bar high when asking for help to cure their class' Fixed Mindset bug. We often have to explain that this expectation is highly unrealistic. Many school settings, ask us to deliver our 6 weeks course called ‘Mindset Motivation.’
As well as teaching how to become more growth orientated and how to change thinking, behaviour and attitude to learning, we also discuss Fixed Mindset triggers.
It is important to reassure them that it's ok to have this mindset too and to applaud and congratulate open honest conversations.
Our purpose is not to make children or ourselves Growth Mindset. Our purpose is to nudge them towards a growth mindset, but it has to be done collectively - with teachers, children and parents onboard.
James Anderson says...
"We shouldn’t expect students to suddenly start embracing challenges, listening intently to all our feedback, and persisting for long periods. Rather, they will start taking on slightly more difficult challenges, perhaps only if they think there’s a reasonable chance of success.
They will listen to more of our feedback, as long as they don’t feel criticised. And they will stick at tasks a bit longer before they start feeling as though their effort is wasted.
Our goal should be small incremental changes along the Mindset Continuum, not flips between Fixed and Growth Mindsets."
So, you see mindsets have very little to do with Star Wars really. Even Yoda can move along that continuum some days, just as we do.
1) Get to Know Your Mindset - Develop your understanding of your mindset first. What are your triggers? What gets you fearing you can’t do something or feeling successful? Where would you put yourself on the continuum?
2) Don't Separate Fixed and Growth - If you want to become more growth orientated then you have to start changing your mindset first, those beliefs in your head. Only then will the words that come out of your mouth change. Don’t use resources that say "Don't' say this, say this" or "Change your words. Change your Mindset" because these separate Fixed and Growth into bad and good.
3) Focus on Useful Use of Time - Developing a Growth Mindset is not about praising effort. Sure praise when effort is applied, as long as they are developing as a learner. If they are trying and not getting anywhere, that is wasted energy and soon becomes a consolation prize.
4) Be Realistic - We don’t want everyone to be Growth Mindset – this is unrealistic. What we want is for individuals, including ourselves, to become more growth orientated. Take on more challenges, take a few more risks, working with other more, and persist at things a little longer.
5) Resilience - Remember, becoming more growth orientated is a journey and you might not see instant results. Changing mindsets can be darn tricky! But stick with it, keeping working at it. It may take some time, but it’ll be worth it.
With a keen interest in the neuroscience and psychology of learning, WAGOLL Teaching is about sharing research alongside great, simple teaching ideas to a global teaching community.
Ben has been in education for over 10 years and is passionate about simplifying high quality teaching and learning through innovative and practical approaches in the classroom.