What “Not Yet” Means: The Growth Mindset

Carol Dweck, a professor at Stanford University, presented an idea during a TedTalk that caught me a little off guard. She proposed that we teach our students around the concept of “not yet,” implying that while they may not be where they are going at this moment in time, they will eventually get there. This method calls for teachers to celebrate the logical processes of their students and allowing them to continue to find new ways that makes learning easier for them. It all comes down to mindset.

In part, I like this idea. In our current school system, students are taught either to pass or fail. There is no grey space in between. It doesn’t matter how you may have found that answer. Is it right? Is it wrong? We have forgotten how to ask “Why?” This hurts our students every single day. Instead of learning how to make something work, how to think critically about a problem, we have created a generation that knows only how to fill in the blank. Every student I have ever worked with has asked the question “Am I doing this right?” Well, what if how I do it and how they do it are different but we achieve the same goal and answer? Who is right then?

Instead of teaching on a “pass or fail” scale, simply saying “not yet” gives students the motivation to keep pushing toward their goal. It is not unattainable. They just haven’t gotten there yet.

My only complaint with this theory is that while this is great for school, I have yet to be in a job where the “pass or fail” scale is not in use. Bosses look at performance and results. You  often don’t have a lot of time for trial and error. If I am “not there yet” by the deadline, I’m done. Game over. Deck did very little to really prove to her audience that this is the most beneficial way to teach. She presented a strong idea, but did little or nothing to back it up or show what it would do in the future. As a future educator, I am curious to see what the long term results of this method would be. It may produce critical thinking, but it loses the urgency that drives our workforce and our society on a global scale.

This concept has the potential to revolutionize learning, but in the long run, will it really be useful? Or is this just another trend of teaching that will push us further back from our educational goals as a nation? Only time will tell.

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2 Comments

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  1. Beth, coming off reading Rose in _Why School?_, I bet he would say that the value of Dweck’s ideas depends in part on what we consider to be our educational goals are as a nation. Is it to “revolutionize” learning or to “[drive] our workforce and our society on a global scale”? Are these either/or propositions, or can we address both masters? (As you can see, you’re making me think.) I’m also curious about how you’re defining “educational trend.” Could you bring this up in class? I think it’s an important notion for us discuss.

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  2. (i’m pretty sure this is your blog post for 2/15 so this is what i’m replying to)

    I really like what you said about the power of “not yet”. I agree that there are multiple ways to get the “right” answer and sometimes there isn’t a “right” answer. In this case the power of “not yet” is very obvious. Sometimes you really can’t fill in the blank, and sometimes you really just have to keep working, wobbling, failing, and trying again. I also like that you pointed out that although this can be a very useful mindset, that you can’t expect it from everyone you meet in life. There are jobs and programs where if you don’t succeed on the first try or miss a deadline then you really are, as they say, “Donezo”. Sometimes in life you don’t get a second chance so it is important to learn how to nail things on the first go-round.

    I think that it would be interesting to try to implement both mindsets into a classroom. One where students are encouraged to try again, where they aren’t made to feel like a failure for not getting it or turning it in the first time, but also a classroom where students understand that they have limited opportunities to get things right. That the responsibility IS on their shoulders and that sometimes in life when you don’t get it right you DO fail. I don’t really know how you could combine both approaches but i think it’s definitely something to think about.

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