I live Professor Carol Dweck’s Mindset Theory, and due to the positives it’s had on my life (relationships, work, running to name a few) it’s well worth passing on to fellow teachers and my students. If you’ve visited the blog before, you may have noticed that I have a Mindset section that’s worth a look.
I’ve explored the theory endlessly, mostly in my head and with friends and family, but also in a professional setting through presentations, an article in the IH Journal and a webinar at the 2017 IH Online Conference. Teaching English is great, but anything in education that deal with how will always be more valuable than the what.
Fostering a learner’s growth mindset is akin to teaching someone to fish. They will become more resilient, self-motivated and respectful of others’ successes, and these qualities make learning anything much more likely.
Focusing on ELT, I’ve been encouraging growth mindset development in the classroom and the staff room for a while now, but I’ve never published an explicit lesson plan to teach learners about it. I carried out this lesson plan with a class of 12-13 intermediate students, and it worked really well (read about it here; it includes images of the board at various stages of the lesson).
I hope it’s useful. It might just be the lesson with the most powerful and long-lasting impact you ever teach.
Mindset Lesson Plan
Stage 1. Lead in
a. What would you do if you failed an English exam – give up OR study harder next time?
b. How would feel if a classmate won an English language competition – proud for them and curious to know how they did it OR annoyed that you didn’t win and jealous of their success?
c. How do you feel if you get some comments from the teacher on something you can do better – upset that the work wasn’t perfect OR sure that you can improve it next time?
Discuss in pairs and then as a group, without labelling any of these growth or fixed mindset. Learners will join the dots later on.
Stage 2. Introducing Mindset Theory
Give a simple introduction to Mindset Theory (e.g.it’s about how you think and learn. Growth – positive. Fixed – negative).
In pairs or small groups, put these beliefs in the Growth and Fixed columns (pdf download below the table – cut out the chracteristics).
|GROWTH MINDSET||FIXED MINDSET|
|Performance/Intelligence…||can be improved with focused practise.||can’t change as it’s what I’m born with.|
|Effort…||is how I improve. I love a challenge!||shows a lack of intelligence. The easier, the better.|
|Failure…||is a stepping stone to success. Try again!||is a disaster. Give up!|
|Other people’s success…||makes me happy and motivates me.||makes me look stupid.|
|Criticism…||is a chance to improve.||means I messed up.|
Plus the importance of YET. Compare I can’t speak English well to I can’t speak English well yet. What’s the subtle but important difference in meaning?
Stage 3. Cultural example – Option A (Conor McGregor) or Option B (Zootopia)
Decide on your cultural example, depending on their preferences and age. Are they more Conor McGregor (the teenage boys in my B1 class are huge fans!) or Zootopia (the teenage girls would probable be more into this!), or can you give an option and do both simultaneously? If neither will appeal, you can certainly find a successful public figure that interests them who has demonstrated a Growth Mindset to get where they are.
Option A. Conor McGregor
1. Storytelling – From rags to riches
Have your class close their eyes and tell them McGregor’s story. Use the range in your voice, the pauses as well as the words – this can be engaging and compelling, do don’t be an answering machine!: Conor McGregor started boxing as a teenager where he grew up in a poor neighbourhood in Dublin, Ireland, and later started practising mixed martial arts (MMA), including skills like kickboxing, jiu jitsu and wrestling. When he left school, he started working as a plumber, but soon gave it all up to focus on his MMA career. Through difficult times with not much money, he steadily improved his skills, winning fight after fight and eventually being invited to compete in the number 1 MMA competition in the world: the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). He kept winning there, defeating opponent after opponent in spectacular fashion, and in December 2015 he beat the long-time champion Jose Aldo in a 13 second one punch knock out to win the Featherweight Championship.
Ask a few CCQs to check they were listening. Show a video of MMA if they aren’t sure what it is (careful with the squeamish students!), and/or Aldo fight (only 13 seconds).
2. McGregor’s mindset
Play the class the video above and have them complete the gap fill in the PDF below.
Go through each quote – Which of the characteristics of growth mindset do these show? e.g. 1 = Performance.
3. Reaction to failure
Continue with the storytelling: In March 2016, McGregor faced Nate Diaz at the last minute as his previous opponent pulled out with injury. As always, he predicted a convincing win, but he underestimated his opponent and Diaz submitted him in the 2nd round (show a video if you like). This is when McGregor´s use of Mindset Theory really showed its value.
Play the class the video above and have them complete the gap fill in the PDF below.
Which characteristics of growth mindset does McGregor show here? (failure, effort, other people´s success)
Finish the story: Low and behold, he won the rematch in August 2016 and then won the Lightweight Championship in November 2016 against Eddie Alvarez to become the first concurrent two-weight world champion in UFC history. You win or you learn.
OPTION B. Zootopia
1. Storytelling – Can a Rabbit Make it in Rhino World?
Have your class close their eyes and tell them Judy´s story. Use the range in your voice, the pauses as well as the words – this can be engaging and compelling, do don’t be an answering machine!: … In Zootopia, animals live side by side, but every animal has their role to play in society. Rabbits are all carrot farmers, rhinos are police offices: this is just the way things are. But Judy the rabbit thinks differently. She doesn´t want to be a carrot farmer, she wants to be a police officer in the big city. So she packs her bags, leaves her family and tries to make it in the big city.
Dictate these sentences from the film (if you have time, watch the whole thing with the class – well worth it!). These are things that a) Judy´s family tells her that she shouldn´t dream too big – she was born a carrot farmer, so that´s just what she should do, and b) when they are stereotyping a fox, who later changes his character and becomes a great help to Judy:
‘If you don´t try anything new, you’ll never fail’
‘It’s great to have dreams…as long as you don’t believe in them too much’
‘Foxes are the worst…it’s in their biology’
‘If the world is only going to see a shifty and untrustworthy fox, there’s no point trying to be anything else’
Which characteristics of fixed mindset do they show? What would be the growth mindset versions of these?
Continue the story: After many difficulties and failures, Judy keeps going, determined, clever and hard-working. Nobody takes her seriously until with the help of a fox (remember – rabbits and foxes don´t usually get on in nature!) she catches the biggest criminals in Zootopia and is finally respected as an excellent police officer.
3. Zootopia soundtrack, with 3 levels of difficulty
Let the learners choose which of the lyrics exercise to complete. Don’t tell them which is harder or easier, don’t even tell them that this is A, B and C. Just let them choose! It makes learners take control of their learning (this idea from Kristyna at the IH Brno 4 the Young Ones conference). The PDFs are below the video…
In pairs or groups – What is the main message of this song? How is it related to Growth Mindset?
Stage 4. The neuroscience
When learners understand that they can learn and improve at anything given effort, strategy and focused practice, this is rocket fuel for their motivation and self-belief.
Many mindset educators include a scientific strand to their mindset training, as some may not be convinced by psychological theory but more by scientific fact. For others who already buy into the idea, it strengthens their confidence that Growth Mindset that help them enormously in any area of life.
Have learners take notes and discuss in pairs or small groups – What most surprises them about this information? How is it linked to Growth Mindset?
Stage 5. Situations
What would a Growth Mindset and a Fixed Mindset do in the following situations?:
- You’re a ballet dancer in a group. All of your teammates are getting lead roles, but you aren’t yet.
- You move to Amsterdam to go to university. You have to learn Dutch, but it’s very difficult for you.
- You’re a professional footballer who is signed from Staro Riga (insert local team!) to Real Madrid at the age of 18, but you can’t get into the team for the first season.
A thought to finish: below is a quote from academic researcher and writer Angela Duckworth, author of ‘Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance’ and collaborator with Dweck on several studies.
After describing several studies in which grit (disposition to pursue long-term goals with passion and perseverance) was a key indicator to teachers staying in difficult schools and students graduating despite difficult social conditions, she joined the dots to Mindset Theory:
So far the best idea I’ve heard about for building grit in kids is growth mindset…Kids that have more grit generally have a stronger growth mindset.
Lastly, find more information and activities on www.mindsetworks.com, which is run by Dweck and her team.
As always, give it a go and let me know how it goes either below or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.