What kind of learner am I?

Three things I learned about myself while studying with Mindlab (and they’re not pretty).


During the weekly Mindlab sessions I became aware that I had a tendency to quickly lose interest in topics where I perceive myself as lacking ability. I worked under the assumption that I should focus on the areas where I have clear strengths and not waste time in others.  I did not realise at the time that I was displaying very clear fixed mindset tendencies and was probably in the wrong career.

Carol Dweck’s work on mindsets was discussed on a number of occasions on the course and her concept of the growth mindset is not without problems.  However, I realised that if teaching is to be anything other than pointless,  I needed to commit to the concept.  I soon rejected the idea that intelligence and ability are (even partly) fixed and instead began demonstrating both to myself and students that it is possible, through hard work and application, to become skilled in a subject even when ability is clearly not innate. I now work with the assumption that all students, including myself, can achieve excellence. I encourage students to reject the fixed mindset and  instead embrace growth and the pursuit of various learning pathways.


Actually this is good news.  I have always thought of myself as a person with the capacity for creative ideas,  but I have learned from reading Creative Confidence, and subsequent discussions with Mindlab students, that considerably more can be done to develop this ability.  I lack creativity only in the sense that I have yet not tapped into my full creative potential. Yay!  The more creative and innovative I can be in my thinking, the more likely I am to progress as a learner.  This is a powerful thing to learn.

I have now started to apply some of the strategies suggested by the Kelley brothers in my teaching practice. I encourage students to seek out challenging situations and to proactively seek inspiration.  One very helpful tool has been to look at problems from the human user’s perspective and to begin experimenting with design thinking methodology. By modelling and teaching the steps outlined in the book, I aim to not only cultivate my own creativity,  but also develop this ability in students.   Together we will be able to foster innovation and significantly improve as learners.


Resilience is necessary to be an effective learner.  If a student lacks resilience they may not be able to take constructive criticism and they are more likely to give up when things are difficult.  My own lack of resilience is something I became aware of during the course when faced with the problem of meeting deadlines as they arrived thick and fast despite the pressure of reports, exam scripts and student assessments. There were times when I contemplated giving up.

I realise now that my lack of resilience was in part due to a fixed mindset view  but mainly because I allowed myself to become isolated from the learning community.  I learned that I am a social learner and that support networks are essential for success.  Sometimes an encouraging word is all you need (cheers Sandesh!).

The experience has made me far more sensitive to the pressures that students experience. I am aware that I have a responsibility, as a teacher, to create supportive communities for students and  teach  strategies to build resilience.


Dweck, C. S. (2012). Mindset: How you can fulfill your potential. London: Robinson.

Kelley, T., & Kelley, D. (2015). Creative confidence: Unleashing the creative potential within us all. London: William Collins.

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