A leading expert in motivation and personality psychology, Carol Dweck has discovered in more than twenty years of research that our mindset is not a minor personality quirk: it creates our whole mental world. It explains how we become optimistic or pessimistic. It shapes our goals, our attitude toward work and relationships, and how we raise our kids, ultimately predicting whether or not we will fulfill our potential. Dweck has found that everyone has one of two basic mindsets.
How Did We Get Here?
Our schools are falling short—not because of poor teaching, apathetic youth or lack of rigorous standards but because the educational system of today was built for the needs of a bygone era, using the knowledge available at the time it was created. Significant changes in family, work, technology and culture have radically shifted the context for education in this country, yet the system remains essentially the same. Developments in neuroscience, brain imaging and anthropology now provide concrete answers about how the human brain actually learns and matures, but this relatively recent knowledge is not reflected within the existing educational structure or classroom practices. Decades of “educational reform” calling for higher standards and a return to the basics have served only to drag an already out of date system even further in the wrong direction. These types of simplistic and short term bandages directly contradict what we really know about the circumstances and opportunities that children need to learn, flourish and succeed. As a result, many students are frustrated and disengaged, parents are confused and disappointed, and educators are defensive and worn out. Learn more about the history of education.
Canada has a strong history of investment (both philosophical and financial) in public education. Over 40 billion dollars is spent annually on getting our children from kindergarten to grade 12, yet public opinion polls show confidence in the education system is at an all-time low, home schooling is growing exponentially and the percentage of children attending private schools has doubled in the past 25 years. Although public education certainly appears to work for a percentage of our children, an increasing number of factors point to a deeply flawed system.
Canada has a lot to be proud of when it comes to education. We rank well internationally, our schools are filled with intelligent, passionate educators, access is free and the majority of our youth graduate from high school to join a diverse and primarily peaceful, well-functioning society. Many of us, however, have a niggling suspicion that something isn’t quite right. When you can’t think of a single teenager who enjoys school and is excited to learn – something is wrong. When teachers can’t possibly use teaching strategies that support deeper learning because the curriculum is too crowded – something is wrong. And when we have increasing rates of youth violence, apathy, depression and suicide – something is very definitely wrong.
I decided to get to work creating a learning environment more conducive to producing the types of questions that create lifelong learners rather than savvy test-takers.
I have come to the conclusion that “teaching” can actually be a hindrance to learning, especially when it is assumed that learning requires it.
Consider the often-heard lament, “some students are just not cut out for school.” The statement passes without question or even a hint of protest, yet think about what the statement says when we replace “school” with what school should be all about: “learning.” Some students are just not cut out for learning? Nobody would dare make the statement. Learning is the hallmark of humanity. We are all cut out for learning. It is what makes us human. If our students are “not cut out for school”, perhaps we have made the mold too narrow or inflexible, or more likely, just not meaningful enough to inspire a student to fit in.
This video is a playful exploration of the disconnect between current educational thinking and the reality for today’s students.