Growth Mindset, PEAK and the Maker Mindset – “enough to be dangerous”

Growth Mindset, is a term coined by Carol Dweck and written about extensively in her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. My understanding is that a person with a growth mindset believes one can learn anything and is capable to continue doing so. In contrast is the fixed mindset in which one believes one has a fixed level of intelligence leading to ego-protecting behaviors rather than curious pursuit of new knowledge.

Growth mindset is characterized by these behaviors:
• Iterative thinking
• Tenacity in problem solving
• Appropriate use of convergent & divergent thinking
• Eager and independent learning

PEAK is an acronym I learned reading Ted Dintersmith’s book  What School Could Be: Insights and Inspiration from Teachers across America. PEAK principles describe the inspired and innovative educational environments Dintersmith observed during a year-long, nationwide tour of schools.

PEAK principles described in the book are:

Purpose: Students attack challenges they know to be important, that make their world better.

Essentials: Students acquire the skill sets and mind-sets needed in an increasingly innovative world.

Agency: Students own their learning, becoming self-directed, intrinsically motivated adults.

Knowledge: What students learn is deep and retained, enabling them to create, to make, to teach others.

There’s a lot to unpack in studying these two books. There is plenty of complementary concepts that weave back and forth, and plenty of thoughts and examples to make direct connections to educational initiatives.
When I think about the Maker Mindset, it is a hands-on version of these concepts – with a healthy infusion of “enough to be dangerous”. This is a scary phrase for many. Does he actually mean dangerous? Is making safe? Does he mean that one should not thoroughly learn about something? Gosh… no, sort of. This really means that a maker approaches problem solving with a bias toward action. A good problem, one worth solving, usually has several moving parts – often requiring physical and mental tools the maker does not yet have in her toolbox. Many of us stop there – needing to read the whole book, take the class, buy the tool, get the degree – we get overwhelmed. The maker bites off only what she can chew. She nibbles around the edges, finding a way into the problem using what she has available. Using her resources, she seeks only what she needs to get to the next step. She may not be learning all there is to know about a tool, a process or a concept – that isn’t her goal. The goal is to solve the problem. The benefit is that deep learning is occuring about these new tools along the way – not everything there is to know about the tools, but a deep understanding of one application and a connection between these tools. Now, go back and re-read the bullet points of Growth Mindset and PEAK, You know enough to be dangerous!

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