What is a Growth Mindset?
A mindset includes assumptions or attitudes we have toward something, including ourselves and our abilities. A growth mindset is the belief that our minds, talents, and abilities can grow with perseverance and hard work. A person with a growth mindset doesn't believe that his/her success depends just on talent or intellect, or that he/she is just born smart, talented, or successful. A person wit a growth mindset believes that he/she becomes these things through effort.
In the absence of a growth mindset, some students have a fixed mindset. Those with a fixed mindset believe they have a limited amount of intelligence, cannot learn, and tend to give up easily. Most people have a mixture, with a growth mindset in some areas and a fixed mindset in others. The goal of Learning Coaches is to help their students work toward a growth mindset in all areas.
· Intelligence is limited or fixed and cannot be changed
· “I’ll never be able to learn.”
· “I’ll stick with what I can do.”
· “Failure is bad.”
· Abilities, talents, and intelligence can be developed.
· Brain is like a muscle and grows with use.
· “I am capable of learning.”
· “I can learn from failure.”
· Runs from failure.
· Doesn’t want to appear stupid.
· Gives up easily.
· Avoids challenges, especially if fearful that s/he won’t succeed.
· Doesn’t want to put forth the effort.
· Ignores feedback.
· May resort to cheating or hiding mistakes.
· Learns from failure and improves.
· Persists in learning.
· Embraces challenge.
· Recognizes that success correlates to the amount of effort.
· Welcomes feedback and learns from it.
· Doesn’t give up.
· Looks for new strategies or ways to learn.
Why Does Mindset Matter?
Students who believe they can learn and are willing to put in the effort will work toward, and achieve, success. This person recognizes that his/her brain is a muscle that will grow and develop with use and doesn't expect success to come easily. Over time, students who are considered gifted but have a fixed mindset have been found to fall behind ordinary students with a growth mindset. Those with a growth mindset surpass their gifted counterparts who tend to depend on their innate intelligence and little effort. Ultimately, a student with a growth mindset achieves success; whereas, a student with a fixed mindset often does not reach his or her full potential.
More importantly, students with a growth mindset become self-directed learners who:
- Develop an interest in the material.
- Stay focused and pay attention.
- Avoid or ignore distractions.
- Think about what they are learning and apply it to real-world scenarios.
- Monitor their understanding and performance.
- Seek help when needed.
How Can You Encourage a Growth Mindset?
- Listen for fixed-mindset language and help your student shift attitudes and assumptions.
- Stress that failure isn't always a bad thing as long as we learn from it.
- Don't praise intellect; praise effort, willingness to try something new, and persistence.
- If something doesn't work, encourage your student to try another way or strategy to accomplish a task or solve a problem.
- Discuss how the brain is like a muscle and how it will grow stronger with exercise.
- Tell your student that he/she shouldn't be afraid to seek help.
- Recognize the learning process, not just the grade. Did your student learn something?
- Recognize that learning and improvement are more important than effort alone. Stress that effort leads to learning.
- Praise effort when it leads to new abilities or alternative strategies, not just working hard at doing the same thing over and over with no results.
- Avoid statements such as "Try harder" or "You'll get it."
- Use statements such as, "Tell me what strategies you tried so far," "What else can you try?" or "What have you learned?"
For more information on a growth mindset, read Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (2007) by Carol Dweck, or search "growth mindset" in your internet browser.