‘Growth mindset’ teaching philosophy pushes perseverance


Delta College professors in the English department have adapted teaching styles within the past two to three years to include a topic called “growth mindset” since Fall 2016.  

“Eng 1A and 95 faculty all embrace the growth mindset philosophy, but it’s not an English adopted philosophy — a lot of professors do use it. Some don’t. It’s been applied for the last 3 or 4 yrs and it’s occurring in other classes as well,” English Professor Sarah Antinora said.

A growth mindset is similar to Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule, where with deliberate practice and perseverance one can achieve whatever they set their mind to and become an expert in any field.

Gladwell  cited examples of successful business people in his article such as Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, or icons such as The Beatles and how the number of hours each of these people dedicated, contributed to their success.   

In previous years students have been accustomed to a “fixed mindset” way of learning; they were were told that because they were naturally good at something they didn’t necessarily need to work as vigorously as the majority of the class, thus enabling a very “bare minimum” attitude.

Associate Adjunct Communication Studies Professor Alex Paez said with this new method of teaching “there isn’t a ‘hole-in-one’ for every student. This should be preached as an overall goal, but some students learn in different ways.”

Students have created the habit of believing that once something is hard they should give up — an example of a fixed mindset.

“There is an immense change in students and teachers…we’re afraid of things. We’re afraid of past failures and we view this as confirmation of what we’re not capable of. If [students] have failure in their writing before, professors will make sure to not let that define their fate. They get a lot of feedback,” said Antinora.

Every student learns differently, however, it’s part of everyone’s journey as an alumni.

English professors incorporated a growth mindset unit into the semester where students read through Carol Dwek’s Growth Mindset article, as well as other motivating short stories and books with empowering messages behind them.

After the unit students notice each moment they have a fixed mindset type thought and will correct it.

“Students come to me during my office hours and they take note of their behavior, having a silent dialogue with themselves, encouraging themselves to do better. It’s wonderful when the students believe in their own capacity,” said Antinora.

It’s encouraging to know this new wave is creating undergraduates that will pave the way for future generations to come.

“The integration of the growth mindset is a step in the right direction. Effort and work should always be prioritized over talent. Talent without work is just missed potential. I believe wholeheartedly in this idea,” said student Mauricio Patino.

No matter how good of an idea the new curriculum is, it will not be the solution to lazy students, nor will it be the solution to instill motivation into those who lack it; or as Antinora said:

“This concept makes them question the world and see the obstacles they need to overcome. It doesn’t fix institutional racism, the student will always hit walls, but without a growth mindset they can’t scale those walls.”  

It serves as an umbrella with many sublevels and strategies to just at least encourage students a bit more.

“Growth mindset is a lot of hard work, but it’s up to the students. It gives them power,” said Antinora.

All professors can do is provide the seeds, it is up to the students to decide how they choose to sew them.