Carol Dweck, author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, became interested in students’ attitudes towards failure about 30 years ago. She noticed that some students bounced back after failure while other students were distraught over small mistakes. Dr. Dweck decided to study the behavior of thousands of students and later created the terms growth and fixed mindset. For example, students who believe the mind is malleable (growth mindset) are able to easily recover from failure. “When students believe they can get smarter, they understand that effort makes them stronger. Therefore they put in extra time and effort, and that leads to higher achievement.”
Many scientists once believed that the brain’s ability to change and grow was only possible in early childhood. However, recent neuroscience research shows that our brains are much more malleable than we thought and the brain continues to change into old age. “Research on brain plasticity has shown how connectivity between neurons can change with experience. With practice, neural networks grow new connections, strengthen existing ones, and build insulation that speeds transmission of impulses.” This means that our brains are not static, they are like a muscle! Through repeated practice and exposure to challenges, we can create pathways that make our brains stronger and smarter.
When you change your words, you change your mindset. When faced with a challenge the image below shows how to turn a fixed mindset statement into a growth mindset statement!
There is a strong link between mindsets and achievement. Many educators, parents, and employers have adopted the mindset principles found in Carol Dweck’s book and have seen astounding results in their students, children, and employees. However, there are 3 common misconceptions about growth mindset that Carol Dweck wants everyone to be aware of before implementing it.
I already have it, and always have. Carol refers to this as a “false growth mindset” because a pure growth mindset does not exist. “Everyone is actually a mixture of fixed and growth mindsets, and that mixture continually evolves with experience.” (Source)
A growth mindset is just about praising and rewarding effort. “Unproductive effort is never a good thing” states Dr. Dweck. For students and people in the workforce, outcomes matter. Often times students are praised for showing effort, but not learning and this only makes students feel good in the moment. Therefore it is important to praise a student’s effort AND the learning process they went through to achieve the desired outcome. Carol Dweck and her team “found that having children focus on the process that leads to learning (like hard work or trying new strategies) could foster a growth mindset and its benefits.” (Source)
Just adopt a growth mindset and good things will happen. Someone may not reach their goal but it is important to reward them for the lessons learned during the process. Educators that coach students to have a growth mindset should “encourage appropriate risk-taking, knowing that some risks won’t work out.” (Source)
The websites below are wonderful resources for educators or parents who want to teach their child about growth mindset. The first website shows how to explain what growth mindset is through pictures, activities, and printables. The second website explains growth mindset though animated video clips, discussions, and questions. Both resources are excellent ways to begin the process of instilling a growth mindset in your child!