Growth Mindset

posted Sep 18, 2015, 10:49 AM by Suzanne WARDINI   [ updated Sep 18, 2015, 10:52 AM ]

According to the Cambridge Dictionary online, a mindset is a person’s way of thinking. This week in the middle school, the students and teachers have been introduced to a new way of thinking about learning. They have explored the growth mindset.

What is a growth mindset? Stanford Professor Carol Dweck has introduced this concept to the world. Having a growth mindset means that an individual believes that he or she can increase knowledge and skill through practice and hard work. A person with a growth mindset believes his or her intelligence is not fixed, but can be expanded through effort. When a person with a growth mindset encounters a learning challenge, they know the potential to learn is greatest. Instead of giving up, the individual works harder and looks for new ways to approach the challenge.

A person with a fixed mindset believes that he or she was born with certain abilities and skills. For example, a person is either born smart or they are born not smart. A person with a fixed mindset does not see the value in putting effort forth as he or she was either born with the ability to do something well or they were not. When a person with a fixed mindset encounters a challenge, he or she tends to avoid that activity or subject because he or she believes they are not good at that and never will be.

According to Carol Dweck and other researchers, a person’s mindset has a great impact on learning. In one study, students who received growth mindset training earned higher grades than their peers who haven’t had the training. In another study, researchers discovered that students who received growth mindset training enjoyed and valued their schoolwork more and got better grades than their peers. In yet another study, when students with a growth mindset encountered a low-test score, they said they would study harder or try to learn the material in a new way. When students with a fixed mindset got a low test score, they said they would study less in the future or try not to take that subject again. Some fixed mindset students even said they would consider cheating if they needed to take another test in that subject.

Teachers and parents can help instill a growth mindset in students in a variety of ways. First, they can praise a student’s effort instead of a student’s achievement. Second, parents and teachers can remind students of “the power of yet”. When students get frustrated because they haven’t learned how to master a math concept, a parent can remind the student that they simply haven’t mastered it yet. The student can always meet with the teacher after school to review the concept and then practice it again until the student does understand. Third, teachers and parents can teach students that the brain is like a muscle. It gets bigger and stronger, the more you use it. Finally, both parents and teachers can model celebrating when tasks are hard by saying, “This is hard to figure out, but that’s what makes it fun.”

More details on the growth mindset and on the research studies mentioned above can be found in the Scientific American article entitled The Secret to Raising Smart Kids by Carol S. Dweck.

Eileen Knobloch
Middle School Counselor