Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Mastery Matters for Motivation

In Daniel Pink's book Drive, the subject of mastery is explored, shedding great insight into the minds of young people.  The work of Carol Dweck is presented and is of significant importance, sharing that mastery is a mindset and that educators can help to foster such a view by choosing to establish learning goals over performance goals in the curriculum.  To be clear, “Getting an A in French class is a performance goal.  Being able to speak French is a learning goal.”  (pg. 122)  Dweck's work explores the idea of intelligence, and her research supports that one's own “self-theory” determines one's own limits.  Students who subscribe to what she calls “entity theory” believe that intelligence is limited and will respond to adversity by giving up, reasoning that they do not have the capacity to be successful.  In contrary, students who believe that with effort intelligence is increased, “incremental theory,” will perceive setbacks as an inevitable road to mastery.  The following example illustrates this principle:

“In one study, Dweck and a colleague asked junior high students to learn a set of scientific principles, giving half of the students a performance goal and half a learning goal.  After both groups demonstrated they had grasped the material, researchers asked the students to apply their knowledge to a new set of problems, related but not identical to what they'd just studied.  Students with learning goals scored significantly higher on these novel challenges.  They also worked longer and tried more solutions” (pg. 122)

Asking our students to learn something that matters will support an expansive mindset that embraces the  road to mastery, which motivates effort, creativity, and self-view.  Learning that is rigorous but not relevant will promote a mindset that embraces performance, a simple snapshot in time that is lost, is not truly valued, or authentic.

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