Mr Darcy’s Education on Growth Mindset

Illustrated by Hugh Thomson 1894

The Bennet Family at Home illustrated by Hugh Thomson, 1894 from Wikimedia Commons

When I was looking at the Fixed Mindset/Growth Mindset infograph on the DLMOOC site yesterday a conversation between Lizzy Bennet and Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice popped into my head:

“I certainly have not the talent which some people possess,” said Darcy, “of conversing easily with those I have never seen before. I cannot catch their tone of conversation, or appear interested in their concerns, as I often see done.”

“My fingers,” said Elizabeth, “do not move over this instrument in the masterly manner which I see so many women’s do. They have not the same force or rapidity, and do not produce the same expression. But then I have always supposed it to be my own fault- because I would not take the trouble of practising…(Pride and Prejudice, 1813, chapter 31)

Ms Austen you were centuries ahead of your time!

Starting DLMOOC: Mindsets and Learning Strategies – Some initial thoughts and beliefs

The Deeper Learning MOOC is starting on Jan 20th and even though it is the summer holidays in Australia, the line-up of topics to be covered is too good to miss out on so I’m starting my 2014 PD a little early

In the preview week, there is plenty of reading to do on Mindsets and Learning Habits and Strategies. I’ve had a particular interest in this my whole educational life, especially since having my own children (all grown now but still learning!). We chose to put them into an alternative primary school because we did not want to see the love of learning they had  (and all children have) die before they got to high school. We thought better to nurture it by thinking ‘outside the box’ rather than attempting to revive it during adolescence.

Watch young children’s play before they enter school, Eduardo Briceno’s Four Learning Mindsets (see below) are very evident, so what happens when children go to school? Well, perhaps it’s that mistakes are pointed out but rarely are they pointed out as opportunities to learn (challenges), maybe abilities/ lack of ability are revealed for others to use as forms of ridicule (sport, art, music, etc), what’s it’s never made clear is that abilities are not fixed – most kids’ know’ what they ‘are good at…/they are bad at …” by about 7 or 8 years old.  It ends up being all about perceived performance and not really about learning. Parents demand it; educational institutions make sure it happens. And most kids ‘get it’ and stop trying. Or do they?

I believe there is a growing disconnection between ‘in school’ and ‘out of school’ learning and the culture of learning. Just go to a skate park, or watch a bunch of kids playing Minecraft together; or learning how to parkour or krump. Kids are keen learners and  again, display all four of the Learning Mindsets as they take part in these types of activities:

  • “I can change my intelligence and abilities through effort” (Growth mindset)
  • “I can succeed” (Self- Efficacy)
  • “I belong in this learning” (Sense of belonging)
  • “This work has value and purpose for me” (Relevance)

They’re also applying collaborative techniques and learning-to-learn skills especially via social media (YouTube videos/cheats/tutorials/walkthroughs, community forums). Real deep learning is alive and well — outside of school.

Self-Directed Learning - How to Wire a Car (planning, reading, tutorials, forums, trying, persevering)

Self-Directed Learning – Electrical Wiring of a Car

Carol Dweck’s quote in “The Effort Effect” summed this dilemma up nicely:

The key isn’t ability; it’s whether you look at ability as something inherent that needs to be demonstrated or as something that can be developed.

I suspect education departments, politicians and the media of creating the Fixed Mindset culture that we are struggling with currently. They have created a pervading atmosphere of a talent competition while discounting and neglecting the whole concept of mastery of subjects, skills and abilities.

(As further proof, in Australia, we are currently witnessing the phasing out of many apprenticeship and competency-based education programs.)

Whew! Nothing like a little rant a bit of deep reflection about current attitudes and beliefs to kick off a MOOC.

I look forward to reading, discussing, listening and learning more about this crucial and timely topic.


Krakovsky, Marina. “The Effort Effect. “Stanford Magazine Mar. – Apr. 2007: n. page. Stanford Alumni. Web. 10 Jan. 2014.