Growth Mindset in the Study of Famous Theater Artists
Growth mindset is a popular buzz word phrase used for a few years. At first, I wasn’t certain I knew what it was. Now that I’ve studied it, it’s a terrific philosophy. Growth mindset is the belief that we can grow and change through education and practice. Some people don’t have a growth mindset, but one that is fixed. A fixed mindset looks at challenges and changes as a threat.
Recently, I’ve discovered I’ve always had a growth mindset I just didn’t realize it. In fact, I demonstrate it daily.
As a student of the seventies, it would have helped immeasurably if someone taught us growth mindset. Instead we fumbled through our education learning about important people but never understanding the reasons to study them.
As a theater educator for over thirty-eight years, I discovered most of our students aren’t familiar with Broadway performers. They know the ones which are most popular as Lin Manuel Miranda, Ben Platt, Idina Menzel, and Kristin Chenoweth. Those are all performers.
What about playwrights, composers, choreographers and designers?
Growth Mindset in the Study of Famous Theater Artists
I researched the subject of growth mindset and ran upon this article in Times Magazine, which states:
“The process of historical inquiry—and what it teaches students along the way—is history’s greatest reward. Studying history teaches that society is not stagnant. Studying history teaches us to question how and why things change, who drives those changes, whose interests are served by them and who gets left out of the equation. History teaches that human actions have consequences. Analysis of past events teaches students to ask probing questions, challenge preconceived assumptions and to recognize that humans have the capacity to be both very, very good and very, very cruel.
Analyzing historic documents teaches us to be careful readers. To be skeptical of one side of the story. To be aware of our own biases. Most critically, history teaches us who we are. I am a Jew, a New Yorker, a citizen of the United States, a grandchild of Holocaust survivors. These identities mean nothing without a historical backdrop to set them against. “We swim in the past as fish do in water,” wrote historian Eric Hobsbawm. “We cannot escape from it.”
Becoming Rigorous Thinkers
Steinhauser continues, “Our students may not go on to all be historians, or even remember the hundreds of facts they learn in a given year. But through history they can become more disciplined and rigorous thinkers. They can be challenged to be more independent-minded analysts, and, I would argue, more compassionate human beings—skills that historical study inculcates and that lead directly to life and career success.”
They allow you to stand on the shoulders of giants. In the 1670’s Sir Isaac Newton wrote in a letter to his friend Robert Hooke, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” That is exactly what reading biographies can do for you – allow you to see further because of what these people have achieved. Admittedly not every biography is about a “giant” but most are (and you can certainly pick from that list). However, even if the person you’re reading about is despicable and not worthy of praise or admiration, there likely are still many lessons to be gleaned from their life experiences and behaviors – even if most are “things you don’t want to do.”
They remind you that history repeats itself. George Santayana wrote in 1905, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” It was true long before then, it was true then and it hasn’t changed today. Reading about the real experiences of others gives context for the decisions and consequences that we all will face. History (recent or distant) will repeat itself because those who are making history were, and are, human beings. One of the best ways to take advantage of the experience of others is by reading biographies of historical figures, not academic tomes about history.
The Importance of Growth Mindset Study
They promote self discovery. A good self help or professional development book will outline specific steps, tools, techniques and approaches to try. These can be valuable and successful shortcuts to help you make improvements and get results in most any area of your life. A biography, on the other hand, won’t be as direct.
You will discover ideas and approaches on your own through the stories and experiences of others. This discovery learning process is often far more satisfying, and most always more lasting, than reading a list of steps.
They allow you to see the world in new ways. Rather than being completely focused on your professional discipline, looking at the way you and your colleagues always look at things, reading about someone from a different era, a different background or a totally different set of life experiences will give you new perspective. In truth, most great innovations come from taking an idea from one situation, discipline or industry and adapting it to another. Reading biographies is one great way to do this.
They give you mentors at a distance. If you have read about the life of Abraham Lincoln, Gandhi, Churchill or anyone else you select, you have had a glimpse into their mind and now have the advantage or “knowing” them. These people can become your mentors at a distance, if you allow yourself the chance to think about what advice they might give you, or what they might do in a the situation or choice you are facing.”
Growth Mindset in the Study of Theater Artists
If you are interested in your students learning about growth mindset in theater artists, I have a unit for you: Growth Mindset Unit: Famous Theater Artists
I’m especially proud of this particular. I won’t lie–it took me about fifty hours to complete.
This unit (36 pages, 8-10 days) concerns growth mindset in professional theater artists. Students research a theater artist, answer questions about artist’s growth mindset, consider their own mindset and finish with a creative project. This unit was created for high school students, however it could be adapted for middle grade students.
The Product includes:
- Letter to Teacher
- Two Warm Ups: MY versions of Popular Theater Games and Exercises
- The Rationale for Studying Theater Artists
- The Rationale for Studying Growth Mindset Through Theater Artists
- Teacher’s Script–What I Say and How I Say it!
- Procedure for Each Day
- Theater Artists List– EIGHTY-SIX Actors, Actresses, Playwrights, Choreographers, Directors, etc. (Great care and vetting was taken to select appropriate artists from various backgrounds.)
- Project Choices Assignment Sheet–What is Expected in the Projects
- THREE Rubrics (EDITABLE)–Slide, Object or Monologue
- Exit Slip prompts for 8 days–Growth Mindset Questions for the Students to Ponder about Themselves
- Video Clips
- Source Page
If you are home schooling your student, this would be a terrific unit for him or her, too! There’s so many different ways this can be used. A gifted middle school class could select one assignment of the three choices–with everyone making a slide presentation, for example. A high school drama, language arts or even psychology class might find this an interesting project. A unit which can be used by many different students in several grade levels and subjects is very valuable.
I hope you check it out and think it’s valuable, too!
What experiences do you have with growth mindset in yourself? That’s part of the focus of the unit. I’d love to hear from you.
If you are interested in other drama education products for high school, check out the Play Reading Analysis Presentation and Project.
Here’s another unit I think you might like: Tom Sawyer Study Guide and Unit
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or DeborahBaldwin.net