Teaching a ‘growth mindset’

Students who believe they can develop their intelligence over time — what Stanford Professor Carol Dweck calls a “growth mindset” — work harder and learn more than classmates who think intelligence is inborn and fixed.  Dweck and colleague Lisa Blackwell talk about Classroom Strategies to Foster a Growth Mindset with Larry Ferlazzo on Education Week Teacher.

Teachers should set high expectations and tell students they have the ability to succeed, say Dweck and Blackwell.

Let your students know that you value challenge-seeking, learning, and effort above perfect performance, and that the amount of progress they make individually is more important than how they compare to others. Make it clear that mistakes are to be expected and that we can all learn from them.

. . . When you introduce a new topic or assignment, tell students they should expect to find some things confusing and to make initial errors. Ask kids to share their “best” mistake of the week with you, and what they learned from it and do the same yourself.

Useful feedback focuses on “the things students can control, like their effort, challenge-seeking, persistence, and good strategies — not on their personal traits or abilities,” they say. Praising students for being smart can be counter-productive.

Neuroscience research shows the brains develop through effort and learning, they say. Tell students they about the “malleable mind.”

Let students know that when they are practicing hard things their brains are forming new connections and making them smarter. Instead of feeling dumb when they struggle, they will learn to “feel” those connections growing.

Dweck, the author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, founded Mindset Works with Blackwell, a former school leadership coach and the principal designer of Brainology.

Ferlazzo’s list of resources on developing a growth mindset is here.

The growth mindset reminds me of research by psychologists Harold Stevenson and James Stigler.  Peg Tyre summarizes in Don’t trash-talk math:  ”In countries that produce a lot of math whizzes, parents and teachers believed math ability is like a muscle you strengthen with good instruction and practice. In the USA, where kids don’t do that well, parents think of math ability as a talent, not a skill.” Chinese parents see a bad grade as evidence their child didn’t work hard enough, while American parents let their kids get away with saying, “I’m just not good at math.”

In Macon schools, Mandarin is mandatory

With lots of poor students and low graduation rates, public schools in Macon, Georgia and surrounding Bibb County face lots of problems, reports NPR.  Haitian-born superintendent Romain Dallemand’s “Macon Miracle” has brought longer school days, year-round instruction and mandatory Mandarin Chinese instruction for every student, pre-K through 12th grade.

“Students who are in elementary school today, by 2050 they’ll be at the pinnacle of their career,” Dallemand says. “They will live in a world where China and India will have 50 percent of the world GDP. They will live in a world where, if they cannot function successfully in the Asian culture, they will pay a heavy price.”

This school year, Dallemand is rolling out Mandarin in stages, a few sessions a week, with the youngest kids starting first. In three years, it will be at every grade level.

A Mandarin teacher costs the district only $16,000 a year, because they’re subsidized by the Confucius Institute, which is partially funded by the Chinese government.

Some parents are dubious.

“Bibb County is not known for producing the highest-achieving graduates,” says Macon resident Dina McDonald. “You’ll see that many of them can’t even speak basic English.”

McDonald herself has a ninth-grader in the public schools and says she can imagine some students going into fields where Mandarin could be useful, like international business, technology or law. But with lower achievers, she says, “Do you want to teach them how to say, ‘Do you want fries with that?’ in Mandarin?”

The superintendent says children will rise to high expectations.

A friend of mine helped start a multilingual magnet school in Detroit in the ’80s. Black parents who worked in the auto industry lined up to get their kids into Japanese language classes, thinking that it was the language of the future.

Asian Americans lose out to Chinese students

Asian Americans lose as California schools pursue Chinese students, reports Next Media Animation, which is based in Taiwan.

Tuition-paying Chinese squeeze out Asian-Americans

Cash-strapped California are recruiting tuition-paying international and out-of-state students, leaving fewer places for Californians, reports Bloomberg News. Often that means Chinese students get in while high-achieving Asian-Americans, many of them the children of immigrants, do not.

Kwanhyun Park, the 18-year-old son of Korean immigrants, spent four years at Beverly Hills High School earning the straight As and high test scores he thought would get him into the University of California, San Diego. They weren’t enough.

In 2009, UC=San Diego cut its number of in-state freshmen by 500 to about 3,400 to make room for out-of-state and international students. California residents pay $13,234 in annual tuition while nonresidents pay $22,878.

The number of Chinese freshman soared from 16 to 200; the number of Asian-American Californians fell by 29 percent.


Public schools woo foreign students

With enrollment and revenues declining, public high schools are recruiting tuition-paying foreign students, reports AP.  Most foreign students come from China, perfect their English and apply to U.S. universities.

In Millinocket, Maine, Superintendent Ken Smith is seeking 60 or more Chinese students — each paying $13,000 in tuition and another $11,000 for room and board — to fill empty classes at Stearns High School. Stearns once enrolled nearly 700 students; this year, there were less than 200.

Local students will benefit by being exposed to those from abroad, and Chinese students will gain from being immersed in the local culture, he said.

Students in Shanghai, Beijing and Fuzhou “didn’t know where Maine was, but they knew where Harvard was,” Smith said. “They all want to go to Harvard.”

Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Ohio, Virginia and Washington schools are recruiting overseas, AP reports.

In remote Newcomb, N.Y., the high school this year took in nine international students — three from Russia, two from France, two from Vietnam, and one from Korea — who pay $3,500 each for tuition and another $3,500 to live with a host family. The school is bringing in foreign students not just for revenue, but also to keep its numbers up — it has only 34 students this year — and expose its students to other cultures, said Principal Skip Hults.

“We felt like our high school was becoming too small, both socially and academically,” Hults said.

Lei Huang, 16, from Shanghai, is attending Camden Hills high school in Rockport, Maine.

Schools in China, he said, demand long days in the classroom and long nights doing homework, with an emphasis on memorization and testing. In Camden, he appreciates the emphasis on creativity and tapping into students’ interests.

Outside of school, he likes being able to drink water out of the tap, the abundance of trees and time to participate on the high school ski team.

Foreign students can attend public schools for only one year because of visa regulations. Lei plans to attend a private school next year. He hopes to go on to MIT.

China funds classes, raises hackles

China is funding “Confucius Classrooms” — Chinese  language and culture classes — across the U.S, reports AP.  That’s raised controversy in Hacienda Heights, a middle-class California town that’s about one third Chinese-American.

. . . the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District is receiving $30,000 a year for language and culture programs at Cedarlane (middle) school, along with some 1,000 textbooks, CDs and other educational materials.

The city originally planned to accept an offer to have the Chinese government place a teaching assistant in Cedarlane and pay his or her salary, an overture that stoked strong resistance.

Opponents with signs saying “America, Not Confucius” want the district to abandon the program. Some worry about communist propaganda; others see Confucius as a religious figure. Perhaps some think it doesn’t make sense to teach Chinese at Cedarlane, which is 75 percent Hispanic, 16 percent Asian and 5 percent white.

China has funded 60 Confucius Classroom and university-level Confucius Institute programs in the U.S. The New York-based Asia Society plans to help set up another 80 over the next two years and an additional 45 are separately planned in North Carolina alone, AP reports.

No habla foreign languages

Fewer students are learning a foreign language in elementary or middle school compared to 1997, concludes a federally funded report by the Center for Applied Linguistics. In high schools, foreign language instruction has held steady.

Spanish is the most popular language by far. Some schools are dropping French and German, reports the New York Times. Once fashionable Russian and Japanese classes are vanishing in favor of Arabic and Chinese.

This year it’s expected more students will take the Advanced Placement test in Chinese than in German, taking over the number three spot after Spanish and French.

It’s not just an issue in the U.S.  Learning a foreign language is becoming “the privilege of elite and wealthy children,” a British government adviser warned this week. Teens are choosing other electives.