Operant Innovations 010 | Stepping out of the Box: Bringing Growth Mindset into Behavior Analysis | Evelyn Kendall

Evelyn Kendall is currently a graduate student in Organizational Behavior Management (OBM) and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) at Florida Tech. She brings her background as a teacher to behavior analysis to "behavioralize" common tools used by educators.  In this episode, she will introduce the Growth Mindset. Where it is used and how behavior analysts can benefit by stepping out of their comfort zones.

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Evelyn Kendall (00:02):

Hello everyone. My name's Evelyn Kendall, and I am a master student at Florida Institute of technology in applied behavior analysis and organizational behavior management. I'm so excited to discuss the topic of growth mindset with you guys today.

Evelyn Kendall (00:25):

So, many teachers know about this thing called growth mindset, and they love it. They love using it in their classroom, and it also helps them have a growth mindset themselves. But you might be thinking as a behavior analyst. I don't know anything about this. I don't even want to take the time to understand it because it sounds pretty mentalistic. Well, I will tell you, as a former teacher, I myself use this idea of growth mindset as an intervention in my classroom with my own students. And this was way before I was even introduced to the field of behavior analysis. So when I entered into the field of behavior analysis as a grad student, I learned behavior principles, which made me analyze my own past practices. As a teacher, I was thinking about things that I did well without even realizing they were behavior analytic at the time and things that I totally bombed.

Evelyn Kendall (01:26):

One gray area that still really racked my brain was this idea of a growth mindset. I saw that it was successful in the classroom, but I couldn't objectively pinpoint why it was so successful. So before I dive into picking this apart behavior analytically, some of you still might be wondering what on earth is this growth mindset thing? Evelyn, just tell me already growth mindset is the fairly young idea that people are not born with a certain fixed capacity of intelligence, but rather that intelligence can be continuously developed. So the idea is that when kids and even adults believe this about their intelligence, that it can be continuously developed, it will alter their performance on challenging tasks. So the term growth mindset itself was coined in 2007, by Carol Dweck, who is a psychology professor at Stanford university. And this is when she released her widely known book called mindset, which describes growth mindset in detail.

Evelyn Kendall (02:32):

Most of the research that has been done on growth mindset was done in a classroom setting with students because these are the most common settings where individuals are faced with challenging tasks. However, there is some research on it being implemented in business settings with adult employees and even consumers and buyers of products, which is really neat. So before my introduction behavior analysis, I taught first grade in a public school. And at the time growth mindset was very trendy amongst teachers. And one of my colleagues told me how much it helped her class. I liked the way the concept sounded. And so I bought the book and read up on it during the summer. I decided to implement it in my classroom, the beginning of that next school year. And I taught my class about it by doing a lesson that started with an activity to get kids thinking about things that they can't do or things that are very difficult for them in general.

Evelyn Kendall (03:33):

Then I showed them a video series from class dojo, illustrating the idea of growth mindset. And these videos used cute characters that are facing different challenges at school. And I also had some common fixed mindset and growth mindset statements that we sorted out as a class. So these statements were things like I am just not good at math. That's a fixed statement, fixed mindset statement versus this math might take more time and effort. That's a growth mindset statement, or I am the best at this, which is fixed mindset versus I'm going to get better at this every day, which is a growth mindset statement. So throughout the first couple of months of school, I helped them maintain this idea of having a growth mindset by reading them, read aloud books. Like what do you do with an idea? The beautiful, oops, the most magnificent thing.

Evelyn Kendall (04:34):

And another book called the dot. And we followed each of these read alouds by having discussions about how to respond to challenges. And I had them all give different examples of these in their lives. I also posted those mindset statements that we sorted out up in the classroom on a bulletin board for the students to refer to. Throughout the year, I praised students who I heard making growth mindset statements, and reminded students who made fixed mindset statements to think about how to have a growth mindset. Now, if you have your behavior analysis hat on, you're probably thinking, but Evelyn still this growth mindset thing sounds so mentalistic, what are you doing? Telling me about this? If we know Skinner, we know that even he can flush out some mentalism into something, more behavior analytic. So that's what we're going to try and do here today.

Evelyn Kendall (05:29):

First, we're going to define what a fixed mindset and a growth mindset might look like, topographically. A fixed mindset might look like negative self talk in the form of complaints or other statements like "I can't do this", "this is too hard", "I'm bad at this", "I give up", "I am not doing this anymore". Some statements like that, you've probably heard some or you've maybe you've said some yourself. I know I have. And some other fixed mindset behaviors might look like signs of frustration, such as crumpling up paper, breaking a pencil, crying, clenching fist, maybe grunting or sighing loudly. And this will also be paired with stopping a task before completing it. That's very important that a fixed mindset would be paired with stopping a task because it's too difficult. A growth mindset might look like positive self-talk statements, such as "this was hard, but I'm getting better at it".

Evelyn Kendall (06:38):

Or "I'm better than I used to be, I will keep trying" "It's okay to make mistakes because they'll help me learn" and you might still see signs of frustration with kids that have a growth mindset, but this should be paired with continuing the task to completion. So that's how you know that they want to keep trying, even though they're frustrated, for example, if a student gets to a difficult math problem, they might yell, clench their fists and say, "Oh, I hate problems like this, but I'm going to keep trying". That would be a growth mindset. They're still showing frustration, but they're going to keep going. In other words, teaching someone to have a growth mindset is teaching them to think differently. But in reality, it's what they're doing behavior wise, that's different. They're behaving differently. You could say this is a, this is verbal behavior in the form of a rule, the behavior of the student, maybe rule governed initially by saying, you need to have a growth mindset, but then once they, they contact a difficult situation and contact the contingency, then this will become contingency

Evelyn Kendall (07:53):

shaped when they're reinforced following an event of a difficult situation or a difficult task, and then having to decide to keep trying instead of quitting. So reinforcement for the behavior of continuing a difficult task or making a mistake, and then to keep trying may include teacher praise, peer praise some other reinforcers might be, they completed the assignment, they get a good grade on it, and those are just a few. You can probably think of some other things that might be reinforcing for certain students. Now you're might be thinking, why is this important for me as a behavior analyst to know about or understand? Well as disseminators of behavior analysis, education is a huge field that is one of the easiest to disseminate into because it's a huge area of need for our science, these fields, vary, in many ways. And they're very different behavior analysis and education, but we all have common goal that unites us is that we want to improve student performance.

Evelyn Kendall (09:00):

We want to help kids succeed. So if growth mindset is something that teachers are using, that they feel is successful to improve student performance. Then we as behavior analysts should seek to understand it and use it to our advantage. As something teachers would prefer to implement and are willing to implement. We know teachers are busy and overwhelmed with everything that they already have to do as part of their jobs and as behavior analysts, they might look at us as a discriminative stimulus for more work. And so incorporating growth mindset into interventions might be a step towards building rapport with teachers. Now let's talk about functionality, how we might be able to use this to our advantage. So let's say you're working with the teacher and you see, she has a bulletin board of growth mindset statements like I did when I was a teacher. Maybe you see a book like one of the read alouds I mentioned earlier, or you see a worksheet about growing your brain.

Evelyn Kendall (10:05):

These might all be signs that a teacher is using growth mindset in their classroom, or that they have talked to their students about it. You can even ask the teacher if they've heard of growth mindset or if their students know about it. If so you can ask. If they think that this use of growth mindset has helped improve their students' performance or specifically the student of interests performance. So this might be something you want to target for data collection. You could implement a verbal prompt about reminding the student to use a growth mindset and then observe any effects it might have on that student's performance. You could also reward students for continuing on during a difficult task by praising them or using other identified reinforcers to help the verbal prompt could occur with the onset of signs of frustration. It could happen before you even see signs of frustration before the task begins.

Evelyn Kendall (11:04):

You could say, remember to have a growth mindset, or you could insert the verbal prompt upon a student stopping work during an assignment, or even when a student has to redo a task like error correction, because they messed up or did it incorrectly. You could decide when you want to apply that verbal prompt, the student or the teacher could say something like, "remember to have a growth mindset and keep going" or "mistakes, help us learn, you can show your learning by trying again", after the student completes the task, the teacher could say, "well, I'm so proud of you. You really had a growth mindset, I know that wasn't easy to finish. Or if a student likes being recognized in front of the whole class, the teacher could announced to the class, "look, guys, Bobby had such a great growth mindset and he kept working on his math, even though it was hard, great job, Bobby".

Evelyn Kendall (11:58):

So perhaps some behavior skills training could help with this as well. You could sit the student down and have them rehearse and practice ways to continue on through a task. Or you could do behavior skills training with the teacher on when to prompt the student to have a growth mindset. You all know that we are creative problem solving behavior analysts. So we can absolutely think of new ways to prompt and praise performance that could align with what teachers already understand about growth mindset. Now, not only could this be used in a classroom setting, but we could move this into an organizational setting, which might make growth mindset. Look a little differently with adults. So growth mindset in the workplace could be observed in a person's response when they don't initially reach their performance goals. So you have an employee, they have performance goals and they don't meet their goals so we can observe how they respond and see if that fits the description of fixed mindset or the description of behaviors of growth mindset.

Evelyn Kendall (13:08):

And if you're an OBMer you probably love goal setting, which could easily be paired with teaching employees, how to respond when they reach or don't reach their goals, that is so important. So explaining to adults that they too can learn from their mistakes and still improve at things they couldn't yet accomplish might sound silly, but it is still true. Even adults can make mistakes and get better. So everyone will run into problems with their jobs. They might run into something they feel they can not fix, but some vocal prompts of encouragement to problem solve and keep trying might help, which might fit the growth mindset description. This can also apply to everyday life. We all have weight loss goals, educational goals, budgeting goals. There might be times where we perform badly or fail. We might accidentally gain 10 pounds. We might fail a test or spend too much money on Amazon.

Evelyn Kendall (14:10):

A growth mindset in these situations might look like positive self talk, like telling yourself, "okay, I messed up. What can I do differently next time to get better at this?" or "how can I change my environment to support the behavior that I want". Modeling this behavior for our children could even help them to respond to failure similarly, which is ultimately what we want for our future generations. And we want to see our children succeed and overcome failure and overcome mistakes. We want to see them successful. So just to wrap this up, we want to remember that the reason that you as behavior analysts' may want to learn and understand growth mindset is because it can be used as a bridge to reach a very large consumer of our science - teachers! It can also reach many other fields as well, but that is one big one that we have a large foot in the door for. So understanding growth mindset, how we can use it, enhance it, and ultimately collect data on it could make our job easier. When we go into classrooms, it might be a key to earn more respect and rapport with teachers who think that we just want to come in and change everything. When in reality, we're just making what they already have even more effective for the good of the students. So I hope you take this knowledge and use it to better the world through the science of behavior. Thank you so much.


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