How I changed from a fixed to a growth mindset
This short opinion piece is authored by a teacher in Zambia, Festus Manda, who reflects on his own journey of self evaluation and development that was aided by the Teach2030 resources.
From as far back as I can remember, school has always been about passing exams. In my early school years, a new teacher would quickly realise that I was quite inquisitive and would grasp whatever was being taught much faster than most of my fellow learners could. Because of that, I was considered very ‘intelligent’, while those who were slower in catching on were looked upon as ‘less intelligent’ or even dull.
Years later, I became a teacher. And guess what, I still had that perception that intelligence was something that one either has or doesn’t have. Therefore, I’d assess and mentally classify my learners into two groups of intelligence: the haves and the have nots.
I did not realize that this was negatively affecting my teaching. For instance, when one of the haves under performed, I’d be very concerned and would talk to the learner to find out what went wrong. At times I’d even accuse them of becoming playful like ‘so and so’ (from the have nots). On the other hand, if one of the have nots suddenly performed well, I would quickly suspect cheating. I’d talk tough to the ‘intelligent’ ones, saying stuff like, “that one cannot be outclassing you”. I was a replica of most of my teachers, and from where I stood, I considered myself a good teacher.
But thank God I came across Growth Mindset for Teachers and Learners, a Teach2030 course offered by the Commonwealth Education Trust. Through this course, I had new opportunities to reflect on my approach and the language I used when teaching. I realized I had a fixed mindset, and unfortunately, I was unknowingly propagating the same mindset in my learners. Through the course, I learnt that a growth mindset is when you have a strong belief that your intelligence can be developed. As I continued, I became more and more convinced that this was so, and that I needed to change my whole approach.
Since I finished this Teach2030 course, I now encourage my learners to welcome challenges and see them as a chance to learn. I want my learners to continually ask themselves if they can improve something. I persevere when things get difficult, and keep going; and my learners are quickly emulating this.
Further, I now believe that meaningful feedback to and from my learners is incredibly helpful, and positive criticism is a way to get better at things. And so I am teaching my learners on what meaningful feedback really is so that they know which specific areas they need to maintain or improve on. At times, a learner may feel defeated and helpless when their peers are performing better. But the course has equipped me to help my learners (and myself) to get inspired by the success of others, and see it as another way to learn and achieve what others have achieved, and beyond.
Indeed, by developing a growth mindset for myself as a teacher and for my learners, it is helping achieve even higher learning outcomes from my students.
By Festus Manda, a Teach2030 Ambassador in Zambia
If you would like more information about how The Commonwealth Education Trust can help you or teachers in your area, please contact us.