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Growth Mindset. Really?

I have long had concerns about the “Growth Mindset” movement. I have a sense that it’s well-intentioned and kindred in some ways, but that it is in danger of becoming yet another fad – another protocol that ends up deemphasizing first-person learning because of how it pushes what to believe.

About a week ago  I came across a LinkedIn post about a “Teacher Growth Mindset series”. It was about teaching teachers to recognize the differences between a fixed and a growth mindset.  Taken from the post, this paragraph about people with a “fixed” mindset really struck me:

“They will do their best to avoid those more successful than them or even “take them down” with gossip or diminishing comments. Why? Because they believe their own intelligence is threatened by comparing themselves.”|

It bothered me as it misattributes the behaviors it describes.  I responded to that paragraph in the post:

They are always learning to avoid the FEELING of shame that gets triggered by situations that remind them of their (learned) belief that they are not good enough. Beliefs are always learning disabling. Beliefs that can trigger shame are even more so.

And (this is the main point of this post) I went on to say:

I agree with much of your domain’s work, but find your term for it oxymoronic. I would describe what you are advocating (a growth mindset) as a “learning orientation”.

Growth is a way of describing learning that underemphasizes subjective participation. Mindset is “set” which is fixed and the last thing you mean.

Webster’s Dictionary: mindset

the established set of attitudes held by someone.
“the region seems stuck in a medieval mindset”

We are both advocating for becoming more 1st person learning-oriented participants.

In a future post, I hope to discuss stewarding 1st person learning towards becoming more “subjectively learning-oriented“. For now, I want to focus on my push back on using the word “growth” where we really mean “learning”:

Growth is a way of describing learning that underemphasizes agency and subjective participation.

Does this way of describing this distinction “hit” / “work” you? I realize I could have used “tacit, implicit, 1st-person, and other words instead of “subjective”, but I think “subjective participation” is less ambiguous in describing the conscious agency in participation I mean here.

The word growth obscures the role of learning and the agency of the learner in learning.  A person doesn’t have much agency in how the hair on their head grows. Minds don’t grow, they are learned and always learning.

Growth is always another word for learning, but all the more so when having to do with the mind.

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  1. Key Differences Between A Growth Mindset versus A Fixed Mindset - Institute for Career Studies - November 21, 2022

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