"One of the great challenges in this world is knowing enough about a subject to think you're right, but not enough about the subject to know you're wrong."
― Neil deGrasse Tyson
In education, one would think acquiring knowledge and applying that knowledge appropriately would be a foundational principle. However, sometimes in education, we tend to take a portion of a concept and try to implement it without understanding or using all of the necessary components—for example, Professional Learning Communities (PLC), as introduced by Rick DeFour of Solution Tree. For an effective and successful PLC, DeFour sites three "big ideas" representing professional learning communities' core principles. These three "big ideas" are 1) ensuring that students learn, 2) create and maintain a culture of collaborations, and 3) focus on results. Many campus-level PLC's instead of being teacher-led, which helps to foster collaboration, are guided and directed by administrative leads and only focus on the results of data. The PLC becomes a session about scores instead of a community where teachers can learn from one another and hone their skills in a safe environment. I believe we have done to Dweck's Mindset. In other words, we have fulfilled Tyson's prophecy…" we know enough to think we are right, but not enough to know that we are wrong."
We often think of Carol Dweck's Mindset paradigm as a personal or choice to be understood from an individual's standpoint rather than as a corporate or organizational culture choice. Dweck gave examples of leaders of organizations with a "fixed" mindset, such as ENRON's focus on personal reputation rather than corporate reality. Or, Chrysler's Lee Iacocca, whom Dweck said her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (2007), resurrected the company and began focusing on his reputation while the company declined.
There was a time in my career I thought I was a forward, rational and relational thinking professional operating in a growth mindset. In retrospect, I often teetered between a "fixed" and "growth" mindset solely based upon campus culture or company expectations. I remember administrators speaking of their desire for teachers to have a "growth" mindset in which mechanized instruction became the norm, and "failure" was never an option nor acceptable. Their idea of a "growth" mindset was being "positive," being a "team-player" (no questions asked), and benchmarked data points met. In other words, Carol Dweck's research became a modeled buzzword that someone in the administration building learned at a conference and returned only to regurgitate bits and pieces of a full course meal to district principals who forwarded this process on to their teachers.
Educators who took the time to read or research Dweck's writings often became "growth" mindset champions working in a "fixed" mindset environment. In a data-driven world where all students must pass the same standardized test, will we ever have an institutional or organizational growth mindset in education?
Dweck, Carol S. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. New York: Ballantine, 2008.