So you are ready to encourage your kid to embrace STEM. Maybe you are about to send your kid to a STEM camp, buy a STEM toy or book, or work with your child on a STEM project. What is the best way to encourage your kid so that he won’t run from STEM? How do you help foster a love of learning that includes technical subjects?
It is essential to cultivate a “growth mindset” in your child. Carol Dweck, a psychology professor at Stanford University, found that students exhibited traits that she labeled “fixed mindset” or “growth mindset”. Students with a growth mindset were able to struggle with a subject and find a way to get better. Those with a fixed mindset tended to believe that they were limited by their ability or intelligence.
Fortunately, you can cultivate a growth mindset by praising effort and praising process. When a kid comes home with a good grade, don’t tell her that she must have been really good at that subject. Instead, praise her effort. Praise the time and perseverance it must have taken to achieve that accomplishment. If you make it a habit to praise in this manner, then your kid will be more likely to develop a mindset that will allow her to push through difficulties on a STEM project by continuing to look for ways to avoid the next error. Otherwise, your kid is likely to run from an error and avoid STEM altogether.
Carol Dweck talks about the “Power of not yet”. Learning is a construction process. It is like building a tower. Pouring a foundation quickly without letting the cement fully set, then moving on to the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd floor without having learned to engineer a solid structure spells disaster. The creator of Khan Academy, Salmon Khan, understood that it was important to work on a math skill until it was mastered. For Salmon Khan, it is not a matter of practicing the skill for a day or a week, rather it is a matter of working until the skill is mastered. Until the skill is mastered, the student with the growth mindset won’t run, rather she will simply accept that she is not there “yet”.
STEM isn’t meant to be easy. It is a struggle. In fact, the struggle to understand is the most enriching part of the experience and the best lesson that a child can learn is to embrace the struggle until the topic is mastered. Encourage the Growth Mindset by using “Not Yet” and avoiding “the Tyranny of Now”.