“In one world, effort is a bad thing. It, like failure, means you’re not smart or talented. If you were, you wouldn’t need effort. In the other world, effort is what makes you smart or talented.” –Carol Dweck
Saga Briggs is Managing Editor of InformED. You can follow her on Twitter @sagamilena or read more of her writing here.
What if your true learning potential was unknown, even unknowable, at best? What if it were impossible to foresee what you could accomplish with a few years of passion, toil, and training? According to Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, this isn’t some hypothetical situation, dependent on any manner of factors from genes to environment. It’s a mindset. And it’s one you can cultivate at any point in life.
A “growth mindset,” as Dweck calls it, is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: a tendency to believe that you can grow. In her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, she explains that while a “fixed mindset” assumes that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are static givens which we can’t change in any meaningful way, a growth mindset thrives on challenge and sees failure “not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities.”
“Believing that your qualities are carved in stone creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over. If you have only a certain amount of intelligence, a certain personality, and a certain moral character, well then you’d better prove that you have a healthy dose of them. It simply wouldn’t do to look or feel deficient in these most basic characteristics.”
The fixed mindset can negatively impact all aspects of your life, Dweck says.
“I’ve seen so many people with this one consuming goal of proving themselves in [a learning setting], in their careers, and in their relationships. Every situation calls for a confirmation of their intelligence, personality, or character. Every situation is evaluated: Will I succeed or fail? Will I look smart or dumb? Will I be accepted or rejected? Will I feel like a winner or a loser?”
But when you start viewing things as mutable, the situation gives way to the bigger picture.
“This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. Although people may differ in every which way in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments, everyone can change and grow through application and experience.”
This is important because it can actually change what you strive for and what you see as success. By changing the definition, significance, and impact of failure, you change the deepest meaning of effort.
In this mindset, the hand you’re dealt is just the starting point for development. So how does this apply to learning and what can we do to help instill this attitude in our students? Here’s our list of recommended practices.
25 Ways to Develop a Growth Mindset
1. Acknowledge and embrace imperfections.
Hiding from your weaknesses means you’ll never overcome them.
2. View challenges as opportunities.
Having a growth mindset means relishing opportunities for self-improvement. Learn more about how to fail well.
3. Try different learning tactics.
There’s no one-size-fits-all model for learning. What works for one person may not work for you. Learn about learning strategies.
4. Follow the research on brain plasticity.
The brain isn’t fixed; the mind shouldn’t be either.
5. Replace the word “failing” with the word “learning.”
When you make a mistake or fall short of a goal, you haven’t failed; you’ve learned.
6. Stop seeking approval.
When you prioritise approval over learning, you sacrifice your own potential for growth.
7. Value the process over the end result.
Intelligent people enjoy the learning process, and don’t mind when it continues beyond an expected time frame.
8. Cultivate a sense of purpose.
Dweck’s research also showed that students with a growth mindset had a greater sense of purpose. Keep the big picture in mind.
9. Celebrate growth with others.
If you truly appreciate growth, you’ll want to share your progress with others.
10. Emphasise growth over speed.
Learning fast isn’t the same as learning well, and learning well sometimes requires allowing time for mistakes.
11. Reward actions, not traits.
Tell students when they’re doing something smart, not just being smart.
12. Redefine “genius.”
The myth’s been busted: genius requires hard work, not talent alone.
13. Portray criticism as positive.
You don’t have to used that hackneyed term, “constructive criticism,” but you do have to believe in the concept.
14. Dissassociate improvement from failure.
Stop assuming that “room for improvement” translates into failure.
15. Provide regular opportunities for reflection.
Let students reflect on their learning at least once a day.
16. Place effort before talent.
Hard work should always be rewarded before inherent skill.
17. Highlight the relationship between learning and “brain training.”
The brain is like a muscle that needs to be worked out, just like the body.
18. Cultivate grit.
Students with that extra bit of determination will be more likely to seek approval from themselves rather than others.
19. Abandon the image.
“Naturally smart” sounds just about as believable as “spontaneous generation.” You won’t achieve the image if you’re not ready for the work.
20. Use the word “yet.”
Dweck says “not yet” has become one of her favourite phrases. Whenever you see students struggling with a task, just tell them they haven’t mastered it yet.
21. Learn from other people’s mistakes.
It’s not always wise to compare yourself to others, but it is important to realise that humans share the same weaknesses.
22. Make a new goal for every goal accomplished.
You’ll never be done learning. Just because your midterm exam is over doesn’t mean you should stop being interested in a subject. Growth-minded people know how to constantly create new goals to keep themselves stimulated.
23. Take risks in the company of others.
Stop trying to save face all the time and just let yourself goof up now and then. It will make it easier to take risks in the future.
24. Think realistically about time and effort.
It takes time to learn. Don’t expect to master every topic under the sun in one sitting.
25. Take ownership over your attitude.
Once you develop a growth mindset, own it. Acknowledge yourself as someone who possesses a growth mentality and be proud to let it guide you throughout your educational career.
Learn more about how to progress in your teaching career with an online Certificate in Education Support today.
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The Community Tool Box is a big fan of participatory process. That means involving as many as possible of those who are affected by or have an interest in any project, initiative, intervention, or effort. We believe strongly that, in most cases, involving all of these folks will lead to a better process, greater community support and buy-in, more ideas on the table, a better understanding of the community context, and, ultimately, a more effective effort. In order to conduct a participatory process and gain all the advantages it brings, you have to figure out who the stakeholders are, which of them need to be involved at what level, and what issues they may bring with them. The same is equally true whether you’re building support for a new or ongoing effort, even if the process that led up to it wasn’t strictly participatory.
What do we mean by stakeholders and their interests?
Stakeholders are those who may be affected by or have an effect on an effort. They may also include people who have a strong interest in the effort for academic, philosophical, or political reasons, even though they and their families, friends, and associates are not directly affected by it.
One way to characterize stakeholders is by their relationship to the effort in question.
While an interest in an effort or organization could be just that – intellectually, academically, philosophically, or politically motivated attention – stakeholders are generally said to have an interest in an effort or organization based on whether they can affect or be affected by it. The more they stand to benefit or lose by it, the stronger their interest is likely to be. The more heavily involved they are in the effort or organization, the stronger their interest as well.
Stakeholders’ interests can be many and varied. A few of the more common:
As we’ll discuss in more depth further on, both the nature and the intensity of stakeholder interests are important to understand.
Why identify and analyze stakeholders and their interests?
The most important reason for identifying and understanding stakeholders is that it allows you to recruit them as part of the effort. The Community Tool Box believes that, in most cases, a participatory effort that involves representation of as many stakeholders as possible has a number of important advantages:
Who are potential stakeholders?
As we discussed, there are primary and secondary stakeholders, as well as key stakeholders who may or may not fall into one of the other two categories. Let’s examine possible stakeholders using that framework.
Beneficiaries or targets of the effort
Beneficiaries are those who stand to gain something – services, skills, money, goods, social connection, etc. – as a direct result of the effort. Targets are those who may or may not stand to gain personally, or whose actions represent a benefit to a particular (usually disadvantaged) population or to the community as a whole.
Some examples are:
Those directly involved with or responsible for beneficiaries or targets of the effort
These might include individuals and organizations that live with, are close to, or care for the people in question, and those that offer services directly to them. Among these you might find:
Those whose jobs or lives might be affected by the process or results of the effort
Some of these individuals and groups overlap with those in the previous category.
Government officials and policy makers
These are the people who can devise, pass, and enforce laws and regulations that may either fulfill the goals of your effort or directly cancel them out.
Those who can influence others
Those with an interest in the outcome of an effort
Some individuals and groups may not be affected by or involved in an effort, but may nonetheless care enough about it that they are willing to work to influence its outcome. Many of them may have a following or a natural constituency – business people, for instance – and may therefore have a fair amount of clout.
When should you identify stakeholders and their interests?
Regardless of the purpose of your effort, identifying stakeholders and their interests should be among the first, if not the very first, of the items on your agenda. It’s generally the fairest course you can take, and the one that is most likely to keep your effort out of trouble.
In short, in most cases, the earlier in the process stakeholders can be involved, the better.
How do you identify and analyze stakeholders and their interests?
The first step in identifying and addressing stakeholder interests is, not surprisingly, identifying the stakeholders. We’ve discussed in general terms the categories that stakeholders might fall into, but the list is different for each community and each effort. It’s an important part of your job to determine who all your stakeholders are, and to try to involve them in a way that advances your goals.
Once you’ve identified stakeholders, the next task is to understand their interests. Some will have an investment in carrying the effort forward, but others may be equally intent on preventing it from happening or making sure it’s unsuccessful. Stakeholder analysis (also called stakeholder mapping) will help you decide which stakeholders might have the most influence over the success or failure of your effort, which might be your most important supporters, and which might be your most important opponents. Once you have that information, you can make plans for dealing with stakeholders with different interests and different levels of influence.
In identifying stakeholders, it’s important to think beyond the obvious. Beneficiaries, policy makers, etc. are easy to identify, whereas indirect effects – and, as a result, secondary stakeholders – are sometimes harder to see. A push for new regulations on a particular industry, for instance, might entail greatly increased paperwork or the purchase of new machinery on the part of that industry’s suppliers. Traffic restrictions to control speeding in residential neighborhoods may affect commuters that use public transportation. Try to think of as many ways as possible that your effort might bring benefits or problems to people not directly in its path.
Given that, there are a number of ways to identify stakeholders. Often, the use of more than one will yield the best results.
Discovering and understanding stakeholder interests
As we’ve mentioned several times, stakeholder interests may vary. Some stakeholders’ interests may be best served by carrying the effort forward, others’ by stopping or weakening it. Even among stakeholders from the same group, there may be conflicting concerns. Some of the many ways that stakeholder interests may manifest themselves:
Stakeholder analysis/stakeholder mapping
Let’s suppose, then, that you’ve identified all the stakeholders, and that you understand each of their concerns. Now what? They all have to understand what you want to do, you have to respond to their concerns in some way – at least by acknowledging them, whether you can satisfy them or not – and you have to find a way to move forward with as much support from stakeholders as you can muster.
Stakeholder analysis (stakeholder mapping) is a way of determining who among stakeholders can have the most positive or negative influence on an effort, who is likely to be most affected by the effort, and how you should work with stakeholders with different levels of interest and influence.
Most methods of stakeholder analysis or mapping divide stakeholders into one of four groups, each occupying one space in a four-space grid:
As you can see, low to high influence over the effort runs along a line from the bottom to the top of the grid, and low to high interest in the effort runs along a line from left to right. Both influence and interest can be either positive or negative, depending on the perspectives of the stakeholders in question. The lines describing them are continuous, meaning that people can have any degree of interest from none to as high as possible, including any of the points in between.
The purpose of this kind of diagram is to help you understand what kind of influence each stakeholder has on your organization and/or the process and potential success of the effort. That knowledge in turn can help you decide how to manage stakeholders – how to marshal the help of those that support you, how to involve those who could be helpful, and how to convert – or at least neutralize – those who may start out feeling negative.
An assumption that most proponents of this analysis technique seem to make is that the stakeholders most important to the success of your effort are in the upper right section of the grid, and those least important are in the lower left. The names in parentheses are another way to define the same stakeholder characteristics in terms of how they relate to the effort.
Interest here means one or both of two things: (1) that the individual, organization, or group is interested intellectually or philosophically in the effort; and/or (2) she or it is affected by it. The level of interest, in this second sense, corresponds to how great the effect is. A welfare recipient who stands to receive increased benefits, child care, and employment training from a back-to-work program, for example, has a greater interest in the effort than someone who simply thinks the program is a good idea, but has no intention of being involved in it in any way.
Influence can be interpreted in several ways:
Influence and interest can be either internal or external to the organization or the community. Most of the descriptions above pertain to external influence and interest, but they could be internal as well. Organizations and institutions as well as communities have official and unofficial leaders, people in positions that confer power or influence, people with large networks, etc. In addition, those who actually carry out the effort – usually staff people in an organization – can have a great deal of control over whether an effort is conducted as intended, and therefore over its effectiveness.
Stakeholder analysis is only useful if it’s used. Stakeholder management is where analysis and practice meet. It allows you to use the analysis to help gain support and buy-in for your effort. Although, as we’ll see, it can be quite helpful in health and community work, the stakeholder analysis model we’re using comes out of business, and is largely meant to help people make sure to get the power on their side for any project they attempt. Community-based and community-focused organizations and institutions may be more likely to have other purposes in mind when the issue of stakeholder management arises.
The first step in stakeholder management is to understand clearly where each stakeholder lies in the grid. Someone that has both a major interest in and considerable power over the organization and/or the effort – a funder, for example, or a leader of a population of concern – would go in the upper right-hand corner of the upper right quadrant. Stakeholders with neither power nor interest would go in the lower left-hand corner of the lower left quadrant. Those with a reasonable amount of power and interest would go in the middle of the upper-right quadrant, etc. Eventually, the grid will be filled in with the names of stakeholders occupying various places in each of the quadrants, corresponding to their levels of power and interest.
The next step is to decide who needs the most attention. In general, the business people who use this model would say that you should expend most of your energy on the people who can be most helpful, i.e., those with the most power. Powerful people with the highest interest are most important, followed by those with power and less interest. Those in the lower right quadrant – high interest, less power – come next, with those with low interest and low power coming last.
Another way to look at stakeholder management – and remember that all the people and groups we’re talking about here are stakeholders, those who can affect and are affected by the effort in question – is that the most important stakeholders are those most dramatically affected. Some of those, at least before the effort begins, may be in the lower left quadrant of the grid. They may be too involved in trying to survive – either financially or physically – from day to day to think about an effort to change their situation.
So…your stakeholder management depends on what your purpose is in involving stakeholders. If your purpose is to marshal support for the effort or policy change, then each group – each quadrant of the grid – calls for one kind of attention. If your purpose is primarily participatory, then each quadrant calls for another kind of attention.
Stakeholder management for marshaling support for the effort, especially for advocacy or policy change:
Stakeholder management for developing a participatory process or including marginalized populations:
The model of stakeholder management described above isn’t applicable only to business. Organizations must cultivate supporters in support of any effort. Deciding whom to cultivate by analyzing how much they can help is a standard part of health and community service work, as well as of advocacy. If your purpose is primarily to create a participatory process, however, you’ll try to create an effort that takes all perspectives into consideration, hashes out differences, and makes participants its owners. Stakeholder management in that situation means trying to attract representatives of all stakeholders, and treating them all as equals and colleagues, while at the same time leveling the field as much as possible by providing training and support to those who need it.
The four-cell grid is still useful here, but the attention given to those in each quadrant will be different from that in the other model. Here, the largest amount of attention may go to the people in the two lower quadrants, since those with little power often have less experience in such areas as meeting and planning, and less confidence in their ability to engage in them. They’ll definitely need information about what they’re being invited to do, and they might need training, mentoring, and/or other support in doing it.
A successful participatory process may require that the people in the upper right quadrant – the promoters – understand and buy into the process fully. They can then help to bring stakeholders in the other positions on board, and to encourage them to participate in planning, implementing, and evaluating the effort. That means working with the promoters to explain the concept of participation fully and to convince them that pulling all stakeholders in is the best way to accomplish your – and their – goals. They might also serve as mentors or partners to those who are not used to having seats at the table.
The tasks of converting the negative or skeptical still exist in this situation, as does the need to create interest among the latents – those stakeholders who could be helpful, but don’t have a strong investment in the effort. Often, the stories of those who have or will benefit from the effort can be effective motivators for people who might otherwise be indifferent. Such stories are particularly powerful if the listeners know the people involved, but never suspected the difficulties they face.
If the latents become involved, their influence can help to greatly strengthen the effort. The more people, groups, institutions, and organizations with influence that are involved, the greater the chances are for success. The task with latents is to convince them that they are true stakeholders, and that the effort will benefit them either directly or indirectly. If it’s not direct, the benefit in question may be as removed from them as increasing the community’s tax base by making more people employable, or creating a more just community by eliminating discrimination.
Bringing people and organizations into the process and moving them toward the upper right quadrant of the stakeholder grid generally demands that you keep them involved and informed by:
Evaluation of the stakeholder process
As with anything else you do, it’s important to monitor and evaluate how well stakeholders have been identified, understood, and involved in the course of your effort. It’s obviously best to involve stakeholders from the very beginning, but it’s never too late to learn from what you’ve done so that you can improve your work. Evaluation of the stakeholder process should be an integral part of the overall evaluation of the effort, and stakeholders themselves should be involved in developing that evaluation. They can best tell you what did and didn’t work to pull them in and keep them engaged.
Here are some evaluation questions you might consider:
The answers to these and similar questions could both help you improve the current effort and make a big difference the next time – and there will be a next time – you involve stakeholders.
Keeping at it to keep stakeholders involved
That brings us to the final piece of working with stakeholders. As with any other community building activity, you have to keep at it indefinitely, or at least as long as the effort goes on. New stakeholders may need to be brought in as time goes on. Old ones may cease to be actual stakeholders, but may retain an interest in the effort and may therefore continue to be included. You have to maintain stakeholders’ and supporters’ motivation, keep them informed, and/or continue to find meaningful work for them to do if you want to keep them involved and active. Understanding and engaging stakeholders can be tremendously helpful to your effort, but only if it results in their ownership of it and long-term commitment to it. And that depends on your continuing attention.
Stakeholders of an effort are those who have a vested interest in it, either as those who develop and conduct it, or as those whom it affects directly or indirectly. Identifying and involving stakeholders can be a large part of ensuring the effort’s success. In order to gain stakeholder participation and support, it’s important to understand not only who potential stakeholders are, but the nature of their interest in the effort. With that understanding, you’ll be able to invite their involvement, address their concerns, and demonstrate how the effort will benefit them.
Managing stakeholders – keeping them involved and supportive – can be made easier by stakeholder analysis, a method of determining their levels of interest in and influence over the effort. Once you have that information, you can then decide on the appropriate approach for each individual and group. Depending on your goals for the effort, you may either focus on those with the most interest and influence, or on those who are most affected by the effort.
As with any community building activity, work with stakeholders has to continue for the long term in order to attain the level of participation and support you need for a successful effort.