The Growth Mindset and The Iceberg Illusion


I had an awesome teachable moment today!  For the past several weeks, I’ve been teaching the kids about the Growth Mindset, and have shared and discussed the meaning of this amazing illustration created by Sylvia Duckworth.  Today, I gave the kids a list of prefixes that I asked them to learn.  There were about 30 of them, and I wanted them to know the definition and be able to identify a word that uses that prefix.  I told the kids we would have a “prefix battle” before the test…a battle that pitted their collective 31 minds against mine.  I play this game to get them hyped and excited about the learning process.  I had planned to practice with them for the next several weeks, but one girl claimed she learned them after just 3 days!

I quietly asked her how she knew them all so quickly, and she says, “You know how I know all of them?  My Dad made me study for, like, 4 hours!”  I said, “No way!  Prove it!”  So while she’s busting them off one by one in front of the class, I hear another young lady blurt out, “She’s smart!”  I saw my chance for a teachable moment and said, “You know, she is smart, but you think this came easy for her?”  I asked her, “Did you get them all correct at first?”  “No”, she replied to class.  “Did you keep working at it, even though you missed a few in the beginning?”  “Yes”, she responded.  Finally, I asked her if it was easy, and she said, “No.”

So I told the young lady who called her smart, I said, “That’s a fixed mindset.  You assume that she just gets it right away, but what you don’t see is how hard she worked to master all those prefixes!  You don’t see her persistence, hard work, and discipline in trying to learn all of them, even when it was tough!”

Since then, I’ve had this picture blown up into a poster and have displayed it prominently in my classroom.  Every now and then, the kids remind ME when I’m using fixed mindset statements.  I love it!!



Author: thetcha70

I'm a 49 year old teacher living in Northern California. I've taught for 25 years and have experience in the upper elementary grades. I currently teach 4th grade. My hobbies include music, D&D, record collecting, and Sacramento Kings basketball!

3 thoughts on “The Growth Mindset and The Iceberg Illusion”

  1. Thank you for this story Robert. I know right where your student and you are coming from. This is important work for our children at home and at school.


    1. It was created by Sylvia Duckworth, and I think she doesn’t mind as long as you give her credit. I mentioned it was created by her in my blog and her name appears in the image. Thanks for reading!


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