STEM Education Poetry

Mind Over Matter

Some lenses toward learning incline, yet
Their models aren’t in textbooks typeset: 
E. g., efforts renewed
Help us work to improve
Through the benefits of a growth mindset!  

This new (non-Twitter) poem presents another concept that is discussed widely in educational and psychological literature but not in chemistry textbooks directly, at least to my knowledge.  This limerick attempts to succinctly introduce Carol Dweck’s fascinating work on growth and fixed mindsets.  A growth mindset can be a powerful approach in any challenging situation…including a General Chemistry class!    

Some lenses towards learning incline, yet /
Their models aren’t in textbooks typeset.
The first two lines address the same idea discussed above: many techniques that could prove useful in mastering difficult material (the “lenses [that] towards learning incline”)  are not traditionally introduced in disciplinary references themselves: that is, they “aren’t in textbooks typeset.”  The chemistry textbooks that I personally have used, while excellent repositories of much information, have not included as much direct support for the processes of learning.  (Textbooks include a wealth of supporting information, both in marginalia and online, and thus do address such topics indirectly.  However, in my experience, most students do not notice this complementary information without a deliberate focus on study techniques in class, given the sheer volume of material covered and the algorithmic nature of most course assessments.)   

E.g., efforts renewed / Help us work to improve / 
Through the benefits of a growth mindset!  
The remaining lines summarize the concept of a growth mindset, an example of such a lens.  Carol Dweck, in her 2007 book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, contrasts fixed mindsets with growth mindsets.  The former treats knowledge and creativity as fixed: someone has them or they don’t; someone can understand chemistry or they can’t.  The latter, by contrast, presents both knowledge and creativity as works in progress: challenging chemistry material is an opportunity for someone to learn more and develop further, by “work[ing] to improve.”  While few students enrolled in General Chemistry are chemistry majors, the need to learn challenging material arises in all curricula, and every student can benefit from developing a mindset that facilitates resilience, builds on constructive criticism, and rewards continued effort