Dr. David Yeager, a professor at The University of Texas at Austin, wants to bottle the magic of growth mindset for educators.
He’s already proven it works through the National Study of Learning Mindsets, the largest and most rigorous of its kind. He and his colleagues found that two 25-minute online modules explaining to high school freshmen that intelligence is not fixed, and that they can get smarter by putting in more effort and trying different approaches, had the power to improve grades for lower-achieving students and increase enrollment in advanced math courses for both lower and higher-achieving students.
Now, he’s writing a book to show how educators cultivate growth mindset in young people and set them up for success.
And he’s doing it at The Holdsworth Center’s Campus on Lake Austin as our first scholar in residence, an in-kind collaboration that will strengthen the work of both partners.
“I wanted a quiet place to write where I could also have conversations with those working in education so I could check my assumptions before I get too far along a line of thinking,” Yeager said. “Holdsworth was a perfect fit. It is a beautiful place with thoughtful people working toward real-world changes in education practice that will impact young people.”
Growth mindset interwoven into Holdsworth
Growth mindset is embedded in our core values at Holdsworth, and is a key component of the curriculum for school district and campus leaders in Holdsworth’s various leadership programs. Yeager’s expertise in the field is a boon for the center.
“We get to learn from somebody who is a scientist in a field that’s interwoven into the work we do,” said Dr. Pauline Dow, vice president of The Holdsworth Center.
Yeager said the book will be an “unapologetically optimistic take on the future of our society,” and will argue that young people are ready to do impressive things – if we surround them with a culture and climate that supports their natural desire to learn.
I want it to be the book everyone feels like they need to read before or while they are working with young people.
“I want it to be the book everyone feels like they need to read before or while they are working with young people,” he said.
Yeager started his homework for the book four years ago by studying UT professor Uri Treisman’s freshman calculus class.
“He’s a legend – the Michael Jordan of freshman calculus teaching,” Yeager said. “For two years, I watched him use these amazing growth mindset strategies to try and get a room of 120 terrified engineering majors to pass calculus.”
Honoring educators as whole people
Part of the book will be an attempt to break down what teachers like Uri are doing so that other educators can learn from their practice. But it will end with a discussion of what leaders can do to create cultures and environments that support growth mindset.
For instance, what if a district or school’s policy around what material teachers should be covering is so tightly defined that they don’t have elbow room for practices that encourage growth mindset, such as revising work and doing collaborative projects?
“It’s exhausting for teachers to have to swim against the stream. They either leave or take easier teaching jobs,” Yeager said.
He believes Holdsworth’s focus on helping leaders create the kinds of environments where teachers feel supported and valued is spot on.
“What I like about Holdsworth is that it doesn’t presume that educators lack knowledge and just need a good, long lecture,” Yeager said. “It’s about honoring them as whole people, giving them the physical and spiritual space to change and to create change. That philosophy is key to the changes I hope to see in education going forward.”
Read more from Yeager about the National Study of Learning Mindsets and its insights for teachers and education leaders on our blog:
Growth mindset study shows striking effects for small investment