“Students, teachers and golfers with a Growth Mindset understand that Rome wasn’t built in a day, or even a single century, but was the culmination of thousands of small, equally important, victories, all of which deserve to be acknowledged and celebrated.”
Golf is most popular in the summer, when most schools around the country are out, but that doesn’t mean students and educators can’t learn from the game! Golf actually has a lot to teach us about the Growth Mindset, which is the belief that students can get smarter and better through hard work and learning.
Here are a few key ideas from golf that help illustrate the Growth Mindset:
Holes-in-one are very, very rare
Many skilled golfers, even professional golfers, go their entire lives without achieving golf’s version of perfection: the hole in one. Getting the ball into the hole using only one stroke is an incredible feat, but the reason they’re so rare is that it takes more than just skill to get a hole-in-one. Weather conditions, pin placement and good old fashioned luck often have as much to do with a hole-in-one as club selection or follow-through.
If you told a young golfer that the goal of the game was to get a hole-in-one every time, they’d probably quit out of frustration or anxiety extremely quickly.
Similarly, students can’t succeed when they’re conditioned to believe that they should master skills and material the second they “learn” them. Just like a hole-in-one, there are myriad factors beyond simply the teacher’s delivery and the student’s aptitude that determine how quickly knowledge can be understood and applied.
The Growth Mindset helps golfers (and students) understand that, while they’ll never have a perfect day of 18 holes-in-one, it’s wholly achievable to get the ball in the hole with a little effort and grit.
You need to know how to use all your clubs
A golf bag contains woods, irons, wedges and a putter, and to play a successful round of golf, you need to know how to use each one of them with some comfort. Even if you drive the ball 300 yards, you’ll still have a rotten day on the course if you can’t get out of bunkers or your putting is out of whack. A golfer who knows how to use all the different clubs in his or her bag, even with just average proficiency, is far more likely to play well than a golfer who specializes in one kind of club but is unable to use another.
If we think about this idea through the lens of education, we’re essentially saying that overall, proficiency of a variety of skills is more important than mastery of any single one. Too often, teachers and students agonize over the push towards mastery, which can lead to losing the forest for the trees.
Growth-minded teachers and students understand that seeking mastery of all standards for all students is a self-defeating goal because it simply isn’t possible for everybody to be the best at everything. Targeting proficiency, on the other hand, is a worthy goal for all and accounts for learning style differences between students.
Each stroke shaved off your score is a huge improvement
One thing golf definitely gets right is celebrating small victories. A single shot shaved off an average round might not sound like much to an outsider, but to a golfer, it’s the culmination of months of hard work. Golfers celebrate the smallest victories enthusiastically because they have a strong sense of perspective and appreciate their journey toward improvement.
Similarly, student growth, no matter how incremental, is to be celebrated in the classroom and at home. If teachers, parents and administrators wait for large goals to be accomplished before acknowledging improvement, they run the risk of making students feel “stuck” or “not good enough,” damaging motivation.
Students, teachers and golfers with a Growth Mindset understand that Rome wasn’t built in a day, or even a single century, but was the culmination of thousands of small, equally important, victories, all of which deserve to be acknowledged and celebrated.