What is a growth mindset – first discovered by Stanford Professor Carol Dweck.
A growth mindset is the belief that qualities can change and that we can develop our intelligence and abilities. The opposite of having a growth mindset is having a fixed mindset, which is the belief that intelligence and abilities cannot be changed or developed. The reason that this definition of growth mindset is important is that research has shown that this belief leads people to take on challenges, work harder and more effectively, persevere in the face of struggle, make greater progress, all of which makes people more successful learners.
Research has shown that telling children that they’re smart and implying that their success depends on it fosters fixed mindsets. If these children later experience struggle, they may conclude that their ability is not high after all, and as a result they lose confidence, so our praise may have the opposite effect of what we intended. On the other hand, praising hard work or strategies used, things that children control, has been shown to support a growth mindset.
Through learning about a growth mindset students learn that the meaning of working hard involves thinking hard, which involves reflecting on and changing strategies. In doing this children become more and more effective learners over time. For example, a student trying very hard but not making any progress may think “well, at least I’m working hard, and is praised for their effort,” but if the student continues to do the same thing, or even more of it, it’s unlikely to lead to success. Instead, the teacher can coach/teach the student to try different approaches to working, studying, and learning, so that the student is thinking more deeply (i.e. mentally working harder) to become a better learner “It’s not just about effort. You also need to learn skills that let you use your brain in a smarter way. . . to get better at something.” (Yeager & Dweck, 2012.)
A growth mindset involves a gradual process of releasing responsibility to students for them to become more self-sufficient learners. The link below will take you to a 16 minute session with Professor Carol Dweck as she explains mindsets.