Monday, 26 September 2016

REBT, Growth Mindset and Rational Emotive Behaviour Education

REBT holds that our response to happenings/events, are linked to the habits of thinking or thinking rules that we have constructed over time. We can as a result of our social learning conclude certain things about our nature and capabilities. These can indeed be fixed and Albert Ellis talked about the debilitating effects of rigid, inflexible and immutable thinking habits that cause severe emotional suffering like anxiety, depression anger and shame. When gripped by such extreme emotional disturbance/turmoil the individual is in a sense unable (incapable) of acting in what we may consider constructive and progress/goal orientated ways. Fixed mindset predicts fixed outcomes. As these fixed thinking rules remain and continue to be practiced their truth is unchallenged; they are absolute. Can they be changed? Yes they can but with a lot of work!

According to Dweck: 'In a fixed mindset students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that ... In a growth mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed ...They don’t necessarily think everyone’s the same ... they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it.' (Morehead 2012).

Ellis' ABC Theory explains how irrational beliefs (B) can be challenged at (D) - Disputation of Irrational Beliefs (DiBs). The first task of the educator/mentor/counselor is to alert the student/client to the relationship of B to C where B = beliefs, C = emotional behavioural consequences of A = the activating event). Refer here Thinking Feeling Doing (The ABC Theory of Emotional Disturbance) for more on this.

Growth Mindset Continuum ©Giulio Bortolozzo
The above diagram is my take on Growth Mindset as it is promoted and developed by Albert Ellis' ABC Theory of Emotional Disturbance. This model is delivered to teachers students and parents via the successful Rational Emotive Behaviour Education program adopted by several schools in South Australia. The aim is to alert students to the notion:
  • that THINKING FEELING and BEHAVING are linked (Intellectual Insight)
  • that Fixed Mindset Thinking (Irrational) is self defeating
  • of actively and persistently challenging Fixed Mindset Thinking to change it to Growth Mindset Thinking (Emotional Insight)
Learning and success is linked to how we view (believe about) ourselves, others and life in general. The irrational beliefs of  'I am dumb/incapable' can be said to be fixed i.e. this is 'me', my 'nature' my 'lot in life'. The belief that 'I need the approval of others' to be happy and successful can also be regarded as a fixed idea about self in relation to others. And the belief that when things get tough one automatically defaults to the idea that it is not worth trying because of the 'fixed' construct that 'I am incapable/can't' (learned helplessness) anyway!

Ellis would say, I believe, that a fixed mindset is one which is comprised of irrational (stops us from pursuing our goals) thinking rules. The headset as outlined above will render the individual anxious (I don't want to risk failure) and/or depressed (people will think I'm dumb) and ashamed (I shouldn't be so dumb. I'm a loser!) What chance then for this person to progress and grow?

'Fixed mindset people dread failure, feeling that it reflects badly upon themselves as individuals, while growth mindset people instead embrace failure as an opportunity to learn and improve their abilities.' 

Help students become aware of their destructive fixed mindset (irrational) thinking rules. Challenge the veracity of such dogmatically held beliefs with a view to deconstructing them and replacing them with more rational (self/other helpful) thinking rules i.e. a growth mindset that will help thrive even through the adversity of failure, rejection and change. This is being successfully done in South Australian schools through the Rational Emotive Behaviour Education program!

Growth Mindset, Happier Kids!

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