Education is set up in such a way that students are judged by their ability to perform a very specific skill which is completing timed assessments. Entire educations (mine was) can be set up with this in mind! With this being an end goal, we set up systems that equate performance in tests with mastery of a subject such as science.
For science (and indeed most other subjects) the very notion that doing well in a timed assessment means that you are a “good scientist” is absurd. Doing well in a timed assessment tells me:
- You are good at timed assessments
- You are able to memorise and apply concepts
- You MIGHT be a good scientist
Notice the emphasis on the might. You MIGHT be a good scientist. I don’t know for sure if you are. I know for sure you are good at timed assessments. Are you a good scientist? I’m sure you could be, but you’ll have to show me in some other way for me to be satisfied.
This got me thinking about the difference between doing well in timed assessments and having a good scientist’s mindset. If a student can adopt a scientist’s Mindset then they will keep learning beyond the curriculum. They will see opportunities for learning more about the universe everywhere. They will become changemakers. They will become inventors. They will create and transform the world. If they leave as just good test takers, well, they will be good at ticking boxes, that’s for sure.
So, what is the Scientist’s Mindset? My thoughts are laid out in the figure below. Some of the terminology is based on Carol Dweck’s growth mindset (see here for more details). There are definite parallels in and some areas I have simply adapted this mindset to make it more appropriate for science. It is definitely not a finished article and I would love your input. What do you think the characteristics of a Scientist’s Mindset are?