About Growth Mindset: Discussion with Dr Jeanne Zehr

Name of Scholar / Expert:

Dr Jeanne Zehr

Who is Dr Jeanne Zehr?

Dr Zehr is the Executive Director of the MINDCAP Center in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She and her team of 10 professionals serve children and adults who have a multitude of cognitive challenges such as ADHD, autism, brain injury, trauma, as well as gifted underachievers. Her 40 years of experience in public education as a special education teacher and school administrator provides a wealth of wisdom when meeting with those who desperately wish to help their loved one. The MINDCAP team has been trained in all levels of the Feuerstein program, LPAD, growth mindset, and neuroplasticity.  Dr. Zehr is an international senior trainer for the Feuerstein Institute in Israel and has trained in 10 countries including South Africa, Netherland, Australia, Denmark, Italy, France, South Korea, and Cambodia.

What is Growth Mindset and how can it enhance better thinking and learning?

Think of a rocket ship with two rocket boosters. The main rocket, for me, is the Feuerstein Program. The two rocket boosters are mindset and neuroplasticity. By front loading work with our clients by first using the rocket boosters, we believe we accelerate the success of the Feuerstein program. Dr. Carol Dweck, from Stanford, published her research on two mindsets that people probably hold. About 45% of all people are one and 45% are the other.

A fixed mindset is what people have who believe their intelligence has reached its potential and there is not much room for improvement. “I am what I am.” This is identifiable by the age of 10. The other 45% hold a growth mindset. They believe they can improve their ability to learn, it will just take some effort. They tend to not be as afraid of failure and enjoy challenges. Obviously, as Dweck followed these people through life, she discovered those with a growth mindset achieved higher levels of success in life. Those with a fixed mindset may also achieve high levels, but they exhibited much more stress. Their success came with a higher price tag. It is possible to shift your mindset, but it takes awareness and effort to do so.

Regarding Growth mindset, what have you found are some of the biggest challenges parents, teachers and practitioners face?  What are recommended ways to overcome them?

Teachers thought, at first, that all they had to do was tell children to try harder. If a growth mindset is all about effort, let’s tell them to work hard!  That actually, can backfire, and Dweck supports this. What if the child does not have the required skills to begin with?  This is where Feuerstein comes in. At MINDCAP we are sure to help clients build the strategies they need while we encourage effort and hard work. Effort and Strategy are both important for achieving success.

When a child tells a teacher or parent, “I can’t do this” or “I’ll never be able to do this.” our response needs to be very carefully worded. Instead of saying “I know, math is really hard, isn’t it?” our response should be “Well, you just haven’t learned how to do it YET!”  The key word here is YET!

What are some of the important signs that will indicate to parents, teachers and practitioners of the successful implementation of growth mindset methods?

You should hear very specific language in a growth mindset home, workplace, or school. A good acronym for FAIL is First Attempt At Learning. If parents and teachers can reduce the stigma of first failures, that is the start of a growth mindset!  Instead of hearing “I’m not good at this,” do you hear “What am I missing?”  Instead of “I give up!” do you hear “I will try a different strategy!”  Instead of, “This is too hard,” do you hear “This will take some time and effort”?  Student language and teacher talk is very different in a growth mindset classroom. Challenge, effort, and try again are examples of what is said. You wouldn’t hear a teacher say, “Well maybe you’re just not a math person” or “Science just doesn’t seem to be her thing.”

What are some recommended and applicable literature sources on Mindset?

The best resource is “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” by Carol Dweck. She authored this book for the lay person as well as the professional in education or psychology. I refer my parents to it quite consistently if I believe they will read it and take something away.

Resources that will help parents and teachers on the topic of Growth Mindset

  1. “Instead of, try thinking of” table
  2. Mindset Check-up
  3. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
  4. Growth Mindset: Comfort Zone Circles

Tools that will help parents and teachers on the topic of Growth Mindset

If you Google “growth mindset” you can discover a plethora of resources and articles that are easy to access and use. A website that offers excellent resources for children is https://www.mindsetworks.com  and one for high school and college age is https://trainugly.com.  Train Ugly has excellent videos for the older learner and helps all of us understand the science of fear and how fear is the number one barrier to learning

Another helpful resource is James Anderson: http://www.mindfulbydesign.com/


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