EDET677 Week 2 What is the link between “tinkering,” “hard play,” and the “growth mindset”?

EDET677 Mechanical Applications of Technologies

by Aleta May

Initial Blog Post for Week 2

According to a video clip, the growth mindset takes students from “I can’t to I will,” http://www.mindsetworks.com/mindset-school/ As I read through “Why The Growth Mindset? I was so excited just to see the focus on improvement as opposed to focusing on a pre-determined curriculum that every student must reach for whether it is relevant to them (beyond their own schemata—existing mental models) or as noted in Libow-Martinez & Stager (2013), basic vocabulary skills, lab safety, lessons about famous scientists from history, and more is frontloaded into the minds of students. Their working memory is on cognitive overload. Whitenton refers to this as extraneous cognitive load. When students are given too much information about the project, subject or lesson prior to participating in the activity, their mind is not ready to try to make meaning of all these bits and pieces of information without seeing the purpose of it within the project itself.

Sherry Turkle is an author who described two approaches to science that are of equal importance: “soft mastery” and “hard mastery.” The problem is that the hard mastery that involves “linear, step-by-step problem solving, flowcharting, and analytical approaches” (Libow-Martinez & Stager, 2013, p. 37) has taken the place of soft mastery approaches to science. Vygotsky referred to the zone of proximal development (ZPD) as learning from peers and adults who can add to what they already know. In 1978 Vygotsky stated that, “In play a child always behaves beyond his average age, above his daily behavior; in play it is as though he were a head taller than himself” (Libow-Martinez & Stager, p. 38). When an engineering analogy for young children was given on the following page, it is pointed out that there is room for both concrete and abstract learning; one does not replace the other. However, many students have been deprived of the opportunity to tinker, construct, and create things, leaving all their years of schooling without any engineering opportunities.

Students need to participate in activities that are meaningful. Then they may add the facts into their project as they construct meaning by manipulating their own environment, with others. Students participate in constructivism together because, “talking and working with others is one of the best ways to cement new knowledge” (Libow-Martinez & Sanger, p. 31).

I have been so affected over the years by comments that teach a “fixed mindset” that it takes a lot of effort to convince myself that we do not have static characters, intellectual levels or categories, or only certain creative ability based on what I can perform flawlessly. “Believing that your qualities are carved in stone—the fixed mindset—creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over” (Popova, 2014, p. 3). The “growth mindset” rather emphasizes practicing and viewing failure as a learning opportunity as opposed to a limited intellectual or personality trait. Failing in a situation is an opportunity to learn. We educators have a responsibility to first and foremost create a learning environment that is not only safe, but encourages students to test their limits. A nonverbal IQ test was presented to hundreds of students with a set of moderately challenging problems. The statement that resulted in a response where students were afraid to ‘expose their flaws’ was “Wow, you got [X many] right. That’s a really good score. You must be smart at this” (Popova, p. 8). Simply rephrasing the last statement to “You must have worked really hard” led to 90 percent of the students (mostly adolescents) to respond to even more challenging tasks. To me this shows the importance of using “I Can” statements that encourage students to try.

In her video clip, Carol Dweck, noted that high school students received a “not yet” rather than a failing grade. Fixed mindset students run from the error rather than engaging with the challenge, processing and correcting errors—the growth mindset. She notes to praise the process, efforts, strategies, (not their intelligence . . .). Effort strategy and progress was rewarded in a math game. They were able to persevere. Growth mindset classrooms—equality occurs in classrooms where students are behind as a cultural group. The meaning of effort and difficulty can be used in a way that makes students want to challenge themselves, creating a growth mindset (rather a reason to determine themselves to be unable to grow and to just give up).

Below is a chart created by Carol Dweck; the Lewis and Virginia Eaton professor of psychology at Stanford University (at edweek.org, 2015):




Dweck, C. (2015). Carol Dweck Revisits the ‘Growth Mindset’. 35(5), pp. 20,24. Commentary at Education Week (May 26, 2016). edweek.org Extracted 5-26-16 at: http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2015/09/23/carol-dweck-revisits-the-growth-mindset.html

Dweck, C. (2014). The power of believing that you can improve. Ted Talks video clip at: http://www.ted.com/talks/carol_dweck_the_power_of_believing_that_you_can_improve?language=en

Popova, M. (2014). Fixed vs. Growth: The two basic mindsets that shape our lives. Extracted on 5-26-16 at: https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/01/29/carol-dweck-mindset/

Brainology. Mindset works (2008-2012), The Science: Why the growth mindset? Extracted on 5-26-16 at: https://www.mindsetworks.com/webnav/whatismindset.aspx

Libow-Martinez, S. & Stager, G. (2013). Invent to learn: Making, tinkering and engineering in the classroom. Torrance, CA: Constructing Modern Knowledge Press.

Whitenton, K. (2013). Minimize cognitive load to maximize usability. Extracted on 5-26-16 at: https://www.nngroup.com/articles/minimize-cognitive-load/


One thought on “EDET677 Week 2 What is the link between “tinkering,” “hard play,” and the “growth mindset”?

  1. Sara Lucas

    I like the “not yet.” This is a reminder to me to always add the word “yet.” I didn’t think about how much this could change perspective. “Not yet” doesn’t mean failure it just means you have more to do. It implies you can still be successful.

    I think what you talk about in your first paragraph is also very important. You imply differentiation because it makes content more relevant to students. Instead of focusing on a predetermined lesson you let the students choose their path. This way they become knowledgeable in the thing they need to learn. This helps students to want to learn. Students will have a chance at a growth mindset because they will see what they are learning as important.


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