5 Behaviors STEM Teachers Need to Avoid related to Growth Mindsets

5 Behaviors STEM Teachers need to Avoid

As educators we are all looking to improve. Here is a list of behaviors STEM teachers need to avoid based on growth mindsets theory.

If you are a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering or Math) teacher, educator, school principal or parent, some worthwhile reading should be Carol Dweck, the Stanford psychology professor who wrote about growth and fixed mindsets.

In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. Brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. This is in contrast to a fixed mindset where basic qualities, like intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They believe incorrectly their fixed traits are the basis for success.

If you want a further summary of the topic, please read it here.

So let’s begin – 5 behaviors that STEM teachers need to avoid:

1) I choose to push into STEM those students who succeed with little effort because they have the brains for it.

We need to encourage the effort of all students so that they can see that STEM is possible for all students.Do you choose students for STEM based on the wrong criteria?

A useful analogy is to compare math to a language you need to learn to speak. If you’re learning a new language, it’s going to look and sound completely unintelligible when you begin. But then as you work and practice, it’s going to get easier to understand.

2) I treat failure as something to be avoided

If you have a fixed mindset, the most important goal is to prove your intelligence at all costs. Consider a situation where you are struggling and run up against a dead end. Or consider if you are putting a lot of effort into something. This apparent failure threatens your view of your intelligence. You fear that other people might find you out.

With a growth mindset, failure is part of the process of learning and need not be feared.

3) I encourage or stand idly by when people are proud that they were bad at math and science

Stand up when you hear a colleague or parent say with pride that  they were bad at a science and math. With a different mindset, this need not be the case for their kids

4) I encourage brilliant students to go it alone

A lone scientist reaches a scientific breakthrough. This perception of STEM work is pervasive if not romanticized in our society. This leads people who don’t fit that stereotype to feel like they don’t belong in STEM.

Despite the pervasiveness of the idea that STEM skills are innate, discoveries in science are often a product of hard work and collaboration. Recent examples include the discoveries of gravitational waves and the Higgs boson. These experiments included thousands of scientists each.

5) I choose students in STEM because they resemble me

This similarity bias is something we see in many fields. The implications for STEM are pervasive in the under representation of women and minority in STEM higher education and the workforce.

The people who show promise earlier on in STEM without having to work as hard are going to be encouraged more from the beginning, and that encouragement is going to keep them going. And then we learn from that experience to encourage those same types of people in the next generation and on and on…


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