“A growth mindset is about believing people can develop their abilities.”
The idea of a growth mindset is based on the work of Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck. Her work is part of a tradition in psychology that shows the power of people’s beliefs. Dweck argues that the mindset that you adopt for yourself will profoundly affect the way you live and she explains how changing what you believe can have an enormous impact upon all areas of your life.
FIXED VERSUS GROWTH MINDSET
The debate over whether human qualities are things that can be cultivated or are carved in stone has been around for many years. Dweck’s research suggests that people can broadly be split between those with a fixed mindset and those with a growth mindset.
Those with a fixed mindset believe that a person has a set amount of intelligence or ability that cannot be changed regardless of effort. In fact, for the fixed mindset, ‘effort’ is a bad thing because if you have to work for success it means that you are not naturally clever or talented. Since people are viewed as having a set amount of intelligence, those with a fixed mindset also fear failure – it is proof that they don’t and never will have natural ability. They fear being judged on their permanent traits and ‘exposed’ and so will often refuse to take risks. Success for the fixed mindset is not about learning but proving that you are clever or talented. People with fixed mindsets only thrive when things are safely within their grasp. If things get too challenging, they no longer feel clever or talented and so they lose interest.
Alternatively, those with a growth mindset thrive when things become challenging. They believe that abilities can be developed and that it is effort that helps you become good at something. Skills and achievement come through commitment and hard work. As a result, they develop a love for learning and are willing to work for positive results. Those with a growth mindset are less afraid of making mistakes, as these are seen as part of the learning process. As a result, they become more resilient.
DEVELOPING A GROWTH MINDSET
Throughout the sessions, we will be carrying out activities to encourage the development of a growth mindset. One key element is to praise children for the process rather than the outcome by focusing on the effort that they put into an activity instead of the result. This must also be coupled with fostering an understanding of how they can improve and what strategies can be used when things don’t work, guiding them towards other strategies and resources that can help them resume learning. We will be encouraging focused practice, targeted effort and supporting the children to stretch themselves with challenging tasks. We will change thinking from “I can’t do it” to “I can’t do it yet.”
Although people differ in their initial talents, interests or temperaments, everyone can change and grow through application and experience. With the right mindset, we can motivate children to increase their efforts, raise attainment, take more risks and become more resilient. This will not only help them to achieve during their time in education but will also equip them with the right mindset for the rest of their lives.