I love the Legend of Zelda games. All of them. I’ve likely spent years of my life playing Zelda in its various forms, all toward one end—rescuing Princess Zelda and saving Hyrule from the grasp of the dreaded Ganon. I have not yet picked up the latest version-Breath of the Wind but I know at some point in the next few months I likely will.
Growth Mindset Connection
The relationship between video games and education is strained to say the least, but if looked at through the lens of developing the Growth Mindset, and maybe squint a little, there are a few things in common.
Growth Mindset is the idea that, with effort, it's possible to increase intelligence levels, talents, and abilities. Students who demonstrate a growth mindset believe their abilities develop over time, tend to seek out opportunities to gain new knowledge and broaden their skills, and do not typically shy away from challenges (Kazakoff & Mitchell, 2017).
Video games provide us with a unique view into the personality of students. What does it take to beat a video game? Hours and hours of time? Dedication, Persistence, Grit, Determination, Creativity? I don’t think that many parents would equate their “discussions” with their children about spending too much time on Fortnite island with building key skills they will use in real life, but there may be a kernel of truth in there somewhere.
How are schools developing and fostering the growth mindset in students?
When Carol Dweck’s Mindset was published in 2007, schools immediately saw the application of how the growth mindset could help their student populations grow and evolve, and to be prepared for life after the classroom. To set the stage, Dweck’s study basically found that some students generally fell into two categories.
Fixed Mindset Students
Students with a fixed mindset feel that their intelligence, skills, and talents are fixed and they may at times resist learning or trying to improve and may just give up when they do not understand something.
Growth Mindset Students
Students with a growth mindset know they can develop their skills and talents and are receptive to learning and feedback. In general, they believe they can improve with hard work and persistence and learn new things.
Incorporating Growth Mindset Into Schools
The ways that schools began to incorporate and foster the growth mindset among students are wide ranging but generally fell into a few key behaviors.
- Establish high expectations for students, not just high standards
- Create a risk tolerant environment where failure is not the end of the world and is not the only reflection of your grade
- Provide feedback to students that does not focus on traits or abilities but instead on the process, effort, and persistence
- Make students aware of the notion that their minds can grow and that their ability to be successful is based on their ability to push themselves toward success
Implementing these types of behaviors in schools does not lie solely with Principals or Administrators, though I would imagine these concepts are embraced at these levels. But the learning and growth really happens with the most important people in the school in the eyes of the students--the teachers.
Leading By Example
When it comes to fostering the growth mindset in schools, teachers are the key. Teachers know and interact with each student every day. Teachers must lead by example - by creating classrooms where challenges are not opportunities to fail but are opportunities to grow and learn. Inherent in teachers is the desire to see students succeed and so many great teachers have themselves been embracing the growth mindset their whole lives, by being life-long learners. Great teachers are great learners, and are always pushing themselves to become better at their jobs and better for their students.
Now why this long diatribe about the growth mindset? We know it is critical for students to embrace the growth mindset, but it is also important to be given the opportunities to practice the growth mindset. STEM clubs, Makerspaces, chess clubs, music classes are all environments that give students the opportunities to develop their growth mindset by solving problems or building and testing new ideas, but opportunities to fail and prescriptively learn from those failures are more challenging to find.
How Uncharted Learning Fosters Growth
The mission of Uncharted Learning is to take students to new places in their learning, to promote the development of an intrinsic desire to learn and to grow and explore beyond the boundaries of conventional classrooms.
The INCubatoredu program and its feeder programs, mxINCedu and freshINCedu, use the lens of entrepreneurship to guide students through the authentic and rigorous process of building their own businesses by solving real world problems like where to get really delicious cookies and pastries for people who have food allergies, or pots that don’t go into the landfill but instead can be planted along with your favorite flower.
Through this process students embrace the growth mindset by building, testing, failing, iterating, and rebuilding to refine their product or service so it solves the problem for their target market. Along the way they are encountering the challenges real businesses face each day, learning core business principles firsthand that they apply directly to their individual ventures, and along the way working with amazing coaches and mentors from their communities, and gaining experiences that they will carry with them into college and career.
The MobileMakersEdu program delivers on growth mindset practice through the lens of iOS coding. In this course, students are not just studying code or understanding the theory behind an app, they are diving into User Experience, and writing the code that enables that UI to work. They are creating and building their own apps, a skill that requires not just flexible thinking but determination and grit. Have you ever used an app that doesn’t quite work? Well, imagine that happening and then diving into the code behind the app to try and figure out why it doesn’t work right? Trying again and changing something small, and then again after rebuilding an entire portion of your code, and hours later finally getting it to work. There may be a degree of stubbornness there too, but MobileMakersEdu students are solving problems big and small and are stretching and growing their thought process in brand new ways.
As much as these programs have tools built in that push students in new ways and facilitate new opportunities to grow in their learning, there is still a single person at the head of the classroom who may be a guide on the side, but really plays the host with the most. They are positioning students for success, putting into practice those key behaviors that foster a growth mindset in the classroom. And they are doing it on an individual basis, as each and every student is different and requires different things of their teacher. But through the lens of fostering in students the notion that they can learn and grow, the teacher is the key.
And for the record, Link is way cooler than those fancy Fortnite dancers.