Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Malleable Minds

Malleable Minds: Translating Insights from Psychology and Neuroscience to Gifted Education is a new publication of the National Research Center on Gifted Education. The premise of the book is to present new finding on 1) what motivates children to learn and 2) what fosters the perseverance and resilience that leads to long-term achievement, and 3) what kinds of tasks and instruction build the underlying abilities that we call intelligence or talent.
Although the book is geared toward educators there are great insights for parents. The first topic that can influence parenting is the concept of mindsets towards intelligence. The researchers categorized two mindsets. The first they term fixed mindset, and those that hold this mindset believe that intelligence is a fixed trait. The second theory is termed growth mindset. In this theory, the belief is that "No matter how much intelligence you have, you can change it quite a bit." (Dweck 1999)

What do mindsets predict? . . .(a) students' desire to learn (b) their belief in the power of effort (c) resilience in the face of setbacks and (d) their achievement over difficult transitions.

Some of the practices that induce a fixed mindset- like praise for intelligence- are particularly germane to students who are considered gifted. When they are told how smart they are or complimented for their strengths, many of these students adopt a fixed mindset. They begin to worry about how smart they look, to believe that they should not need effort to achieve in school or accomplish their goals, and to lose their resilience when they experience difficulty.
                                                                                                 (Malleable Minds, 2012)
How does this impact parenting? If you want your child to improve achievement, be resilient and reach their highest potential, you need to help instill in your child a growth mindset. You need to help them value and believe in effort as a vehicle for academic success. They should understand that even geniuses have to work hard for great discoveries. In fact, focus, perseverance and self-improvement or deliberate practice is the one thing that separates geniuses who make creative contributions from those who were equally talented early on. Parents are the greatest influence on their child's values, and can help instill a growth mindset.