Teaching is Constructing Mindsets.

The view that children adopt for themselves can have a profound effect on their self-concept for the rest of their lives. This can be seen through the effects of labeling theory or stereotype threat, in which perceptions of inability actually produce lower levels of achievement, and perceptions of ability in turn produce higher levels of achievement. In this same line of logic, learned helplessness refers to the cultivation of a perception that one cannot succeed—that their capacities and capabilities are innately lower than their peers—and therefore these students are less likely to perform to their best ability. How can we as educators avoid teaching helplessness to our students? How do we create mindsets—self concepts—that empower rather than inhibit quality learning?
In the standardized, high-stakes testing world of contemporary public education in the United States, we run an incredible risk of producing fixed mindsets. This occurs when one’s view of self is static; one has a distinct set of capabilities and capacities, and this set of tools remains the same for one’s entire lifetime. Creating standardized measurements and thresholds of success and intelligence can have a major part in producing this mindset, which can lead to a fear of challenge and a devaluing of effort. This ultimately inhibits a students’ power to fully engage in the process of learning.
On the other hand, there is a different type of mindset that we can cultivate for our students: a growth mindset. This occurs when one’s view of self is more fluid, based on the belief that one’s set of capabilities and capacities can be changed and cultivated with effort. Research has shown that individuals with a growth mindset are more willing to see value in challenging oneself and place higher importance on effort. If we want to develop a health education pedagogy with the goal of providing the opportunity for our students to develop as the most healthy learners they can be, we must strive to build growth mindsets—to foster a genuine hope for continual positive development and improvement.


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