Almost everyone has experienced the sense of being so engrossed in what they’re working on that they lose sense of time? It doesn’t feel like work: it’s work and play at the same time.
Throughout the 1990s, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi became famous for his research on these moments of optimal experience, a state that he called “flow.”
So when are students and adults most engaged, approaching a flowlike state?
As students work each week to respond to the challenges of research and planning a presentation about a science or social studies topic, how we look at our skills, knowledge, and effort impacts our progress. Class discussions about the projects include observations of our own thinking or metacognition about the challenges of the content or subject matter, critical thinking, and creation.
A “fixed mindset” assumes that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are static qualities which we can’t change in any meaningful way. For a fixed mindset, success is the validation of that unchanging intelligence, an assessment of how fixed qualities measure up against an equally fixed standard. Avoiding failure at all costs becomes a way of maintaining the sense of being smart or skilled.
A “growth mindset” thrives on challenge and sees setbacks or missing the mark not as evidence of lack of intelligence but as a springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities. In this fluid, changing worldview, failure is about not growing or not reaching out for the things we value. For a growth mindset, every new situation allows us to keep pushing into unfamiliar, uncharted territory to make sure we’re always learning.
Our classroom Mindsets discussion materials and activities are based on the work of developmental psychologist Dr. Carol S. Dweck of Stanford University. For more information, please visit http://mindsetonline.com/.