Carol Dweck’s research on Growth Mindset has been around for decades, and her book on the topic is nearly ten years old. However, it is just in the last few years that this concept has really begun to take off and become ingrained within school cultures. This powerful concept can have a huge impact on your student’s perception of themselves and their abilities, so it’s important to understand how you can foster and support this mindset.
What It Is
Dweck’s research is based on a simple comparison between two mindsets; growth and fixed. An individual with a growth mindset understands that their intelligence can be developed and are driven by a desire to learn and improve their knowledge and skills. A person with a fixed mindset however, believes that things like intelligence and skill are static traits that exist from birth, and are typically more concerned with looking smart and so focus on avoiding challenges that could upset this paradigm. The idea behind a growth mindset is that people who recognize they are not more or less intelligent than anyone else, and that skill and ability are things that can be changed and developed, are more successful in school and life in general. They’re less likely to give up in the face of a challenge, but rather will embrace the opportunity to problem solve and further develop their skills. They understand that being unsuccessful in one’s attempts at something does not make them a failure.
What It Isn’t
A growth mindset is not simply positive thinking. It isn’t based on the idea that if you imagine something to be so, it will happen, and it isn’t about warm fuzzy feelings and self-esteem. Having the mindset that you are capable of anything you determine to accomplish, if you don’t give up and if you recognize that failure isn’t definitive, is a work-in-progress that no one ever completely masters. Everyone has their own triggers that will set off their fixed-mindset and a rabbit trail of negative thoughts. However, if students can build the self-awareness to recognize that this is what they’re doing, they can also build the skills necessary to fight back against feelings of inadequacy that can put a damper on their learning.
How You Can Support It
Fostering a growth mindset is not just about praising effort. “You tried.” isn’t the same as “You tried unsuccessfully, what could you do differently?” One is simply a statement of fact, the other is an encouragement to not give up and to continue exploring. Place emphasis on the strategies they tried and their efforts at problem solving, as well as how much they’ve grown in that particular area. You can also focus on the way you respond to your child’s negative self-talk in the face of a challenge. If they say that they can’t do something, your response could be that they can’t do it yet because they haven’t learned how to. That word “yet” can be very powerful. It implies that just because it hasn’t happened now, that doesn’t mean it would be impossible for it to happen in the future.
As a school, we at St. Barnabas focus on developing your child’s love of learning in a way that promotes confidence, problem solving, and perseverance through brain-based education in order to build a positive growth mindset that will benefit your child throughout their life. Please contact us to learn more about how our school can help your student.
Our mission is to challenge each student in a supportive environment that promotes academic excellence, and sound moral values within a framework of God’s love.