There is much discussion these days about “growth mindset”, particularly in schools. When I was at school it was generally believed that whatever abilities and personalities you had by the time you started school were what you were stuck with for life. Fortunately much research has been done in recent years and researchers such as Carol Dweck, the academic credited with the discovery of Growth Mindset, have discovered that in fact our brains are capable of learning and changing throughout our lives. We can constantly create new connections and reactions.
This is a real game changer!
No longer can you use the excuse that you can’t do something because that’s not how your brain works. If you want to learn something badly enough, theoretically at least, you can.
What is “growth mindset”?
“According to Dweck, “In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort.”” (Source – https://www.edglossary.org/growth-mindset/)
So if your mindset is what you believe about yourself, having a fixed mindset is believing that you cannot change, and a growth mindset is believing that this can be changed.
Why is this so important?
Well, if we believe that we are intelligent, caring, stubborn, short tempered… and that is “just the way we are” then we have no incentive to make an effort to change ourselves or our lives.
By having the belief that you can change your personality and learn new skills you are empowered to try, to learn, to really achieve your potential.
“Asked by THE what were the biggest misconceptions about growth mindset, Professor Dweck said there were “many”, but specifically picked out three:
- “That mindset is a simple concept. It’s not – it’s embedded in a whole theory about the psychology of challenge-seeking and persistence.
- “That it’s easy to implement. It isn’t. It’s really hard to pass a growth mindset on to others and create a growth mindset culture. It’s not about educators giving a mindset lecture or putting up a poster – it’s about embodying it in all their practices.
- “That a growth mindset denies the importance of talent. It doesn’t. A growth mindset is simply the belief that talents and abilities can be developed.”” – (Source: TES.com)
Bearing in mind that Carol Dweck spent 11 years researching mindset and why people react differently to failure, it is unlikely that we are going to be able to become experts by reading a blog, or even reading her book. But we can take the basic principles and use them to inform our own attitudes and behaviours, and our approach to our students.
How can we implement growth mindset in the classroom?
- Set achievable goals for pupils. Think about the individual child and what is a significant achievement for them.
- Encourage your students to enjoy the process of learning and discovering new skills, shift the focus away from the end result. Giving children a life long love of learning is so much more valuable long term than a report card full of A’s.
- Encourage the children to work together and help each other rather than always competing. Children are more successful when they work together.
- Praise techniques and effort rather than intelligence when congratulating a student.
- Read books about people who have overcome challenges.
- View failure as learning not something to be feared.
- Teach using the language of growth. The word “yet” is so powerful. “I can’t do that” versus “I can’t do that yet“. Encourage your children to look at the things they an’t do “yet” and then encourage them to work towards being able to do those things.
I could go on. But you get the idea I’m sure. The important thing is to use this language all the time in your school and not just when teaching a lesson on mindset. Growth mindset isn’t something to pick up and put down it is an attitude.
Do you have a growth mindset?
Now we have looked at the area of growth mindset which is usually the focus of this subject in our education system, the children, let’s shift that focus and look at you, the teacher.
How can you as a teacher explore your own mindset?
Do you have a growth mindset? We know that to be a teacher you have to be constantly learning but do you embrace that, do you embrace your failures as opportunities to learn? Or do you reject new technology, new approaches and try tell yourself that you have always done it this way and that will be just fine.
In order to truly teach your class to have a growth mindset you must model the behaviour yourself. Children learn more from how you behave than what you say.
Stop and think for a moment about your own mindset, you can always change, you can always grow, it is never too late.