Merrian-Webster dictionary defines learning as, " the activity or process of gaining knowledge or skill by studying, practicing, being taught, or experiencing something" When we practice something we are identifying skills that we wish to improve on. We then apply repetition, reflection and instruction to improve in a particular area. The act of doing something over and over must be paired with instruction and adjustment in order to result in a change in behavior, action or understanding.
Athletes are not born professional. It takes countless hours of instruction, practice and adjustment. It is the instruction paired with practice that will most likely equate to growth. Albert Einstein defined insanity as the act of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the same result. For this reason, we must embrace failure and not hesitate to change direction or seek instruction.
In our classrooms we need to cultivate a culture that takes risks, embraces misunderstanding, seeks instruction and can adjust. Only when our students can embrace that the first step in learning is not knowing can we move toward growth. How we provide an environment that encourages kids to participate, not be afraid to be wrong and recognize the strategies that can be employed to transition from not knowing to knowing?
I recently read Carol Dweck's book Mindset. The idea of a Fixed vs. Growth Mindset and it's influence on the classroom struck a chord with me. Our educational system provides variables that make it easy for students to develop a fixed mindset. Leveled classes, honor rolls, GPA's, and standardized testing establish labels and groupings that present students with a fixed interpretation of their ability.
The research presented by Dweck shows us that our brains are malleable. Our intelligence is not fixed, but can grow. Dr. Dweck presents a number of strategies that can be employed to develop the growth mindset. This mindset must be embraced by both students and teachers.
When working with our most at-risk students it is my belief that a counseling approach in which we can reroute the belief that their intelligence level is fixed is vital. As demonstrated by our most successful athletes, scholars, and entertainers it is a commitment to practice, recognition of weaknesses and perseverance that resulted in their development. As Malcolm Gladwell has proposed it takes 10,000 hours of emersion in your craft to produce an Outlier. I encourage educators to explore this idea and integrate its principles into their instructional practices .