Growth mindsets and ‘grit’ are two buzzwords in education right now. Students with growth mindsets believe that intelligence can be developed or grown—that is, it is not a fixed trait that lucky people are born with (Popova, 2014). Growth mindset interventions have been found to promote “more positive academic attitudes including learning motivation and learning efficacy” (Burnette, Russell, Hoyt, Orvidas, & Widman, 2018, p. 443), which may help to close achievement gaps and further empower students toward college and career readiness. I relate growth mindsets to the idea of elasticity and adaptability: students with fixed mindsets often feel helpless in the face of challenges (Seaton, 2018, p. 42), while students with growth mindsets believe in their ability to learn and rise to the challenge—and they usually have better results than their fixed counterparts because of their positive outlook and sense of self-efficacy.
‘Play’ and ‘fun’ are not words that we typically associate with learning, especially in older grades, but play and hard fun—that is, fun that challenges students—can resemble tinkering in that it is “fun, creative, purposeful, and mindful at the same time” (Martinez & Stager, 2019, p. 42). And there’s a sense of playfulness in tinkering and making, even though it can be frustrating when you hit a wall in your project: tinkerers and makers are “experiment[ing], tak[ing] risks, and play[ing] with their own ideas” (Martinez & Stager, 2019, p. 40). In this way, tinkering, making, and ‘hard fun’ are pathways to building growth mindsets within students because they challenge students to invent solutions and work with tools that may be new and unfamiliar. These activities encourage students to “see themselves as learners who have good ideas and can transform their own ideas into reality” (Martinez & Stager, 2019, p. 40). That sort of belief in oneself and one’s abilities are closely related to a growth mindset.
Developing these skills in students is imperative to preparing them for the dynamic workplaces of the 21st century, as well. Olszewski-Kubilius, Subotnik, and Worrell (2016) name growth mindsets as one of the psychosocial skills that are a “critical lever” for success in today’s workplaces because they allow the individual to persist “despite setbacks, anxiety, fears, and lack of support” (p. 141). If college and career readiness is one of our goals as educators, and growth mindsets can result in higher academic achievement and better position one for success in the workplace, then we must focus on developing growth mindsets within our students. Tinkering and making is one excellent pathway there—what are some others you can think of, or examples of tinkering and making within your classroom? Have you noticed a change in students’ growth mindsets as a result of these projects?
Burnette, J. L., Russell, M. V., Hoyt, C. L., Orvidas, K., & Widman, L. (2018, September). An online growth mindset intervention in a sample of rural adolescent girls. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 88(3), 428-445. doi:10.1111/bjep.12192
Martinez, S. L., & Stager, G. (2019). Invent to learn: Making, tinkering, and engineering in the classroom (2nd ed.). Torrance, CA: Constructing Modern Knowledge Press.
Olszewski-Kubilius, P., Subotnik, R. F., & Worrell, F. C. (2016). Aiming talent development toward creative eminence in the 21st century. Roeper Review, 38(3), 140-152. doi:10.1080/02783193.2016.1184497
Popova, M. (2014, January 29). Fixed vs. Growth: The Two Basic Mindsets That Shape Our Lives. Retrieved from Brain Pickings: https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/01/29/carol-dweck-mindset/
Seaton, F. S. (2018, January). Empowering teachers to implement a growth mindset. Educational Psychology in Practice, 34(1), 41-57. doi:10.1080/02667363.2017.1382333