Students that have a fixed mindset limit themselves in their learning process. They try to hide mistakes, become defensive when wrong, give up quickly if they do not understand, and often avoid challenges. A student with a fixed mindset thinks that intelligence can’t be changed – people are only good at things they are born good at. They ignore constructive criticism and are threatened by others success. The fixed mindset student does not take chances on learning new information for fear of failure. I feel like these students are missing out on a huge part of learning. We, as learners, often need to fail in order to succeed.
On the other end of the spectrum are the growth mindset learners. The growth mindset is very important to obtain because this learning process sets the student up for success. These learners are very open to new ideas and different ways of learning. They understand and accept failure or mistakes. They turn failures and shortcomings into learning opportunities instead of giving up. They continue to learn at all times despite setbacks. The growth mindset learner embraces challenges, accepts constructive criticism, and most of all understands that intelligence can be developed and learned. They take on the idea that we are born to learn.
I can see the distinct mindset differences in a lot of my students. Some of them are very hesitant to try anything new or different while others are always awaiting something new to learn. I also see that often times the mindset has little to do with the intelligence of the student. Many very smart students are slow to try new techniques, concepts, styles, or ideas. On the contrary many less intelligent people will jump in and try new things without hesitation. This is something that I would like to research a little more. Are growth mindset people more intelligent? I’m not sure… But they are more accepting of failure. I think I am sometimes hesitant to try new things because I don’t want to fail, but I love to learn. It is an ongoing battle for me to exemplify the growth mindset, I think it is human nature to want to succeed and not fail. When we do fail we have to make a choice, will we give up or will we struggle and fight through to conquer our goal.
Dweck (2006) states in her book, Mindset: The new psychology of success, there are four steps to change from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset.
The first step is learning to hear your fixed mindset voice. Recognize when you are questioning your ability to continue to push for success and when you are getting angry about constructive criticism.
The second step is recognizing that you have a choice how you interpret challenges, setbacks, and criticism. The fixed mindset might interpret these problems as impossible to overcome because they are lacking the skills necessary to succeed. The growth mindset learner will interpret the setbacks as a way to learn how to overcome problems, stretch their abilities, and refine their efforts.
The third step is when you hear your inner fixed mindset voice, respond back to it with a growth mindset attitude. When asked a question or given a problem you can’t solve the growth mindset learner will respond with a positive attitude about learning how to solve it instead of simply giving up. Here are a few examples that exemplify the two different mindsets:
THE FIXED-MINDSET says “Are you sure you can do it? Maybe you don’t have the talent.”
THE GROWTH-MINDSET answers, “I’m not sure I can do it now, but I think I can learn to with time and effort.”
FIXED MINDSET: “This would have been a snap if you really had talent.”
GROWTH MINDSET: “That is so wrong. Basketball wasn’t easy for Michael Jordan and science wasn’t easy for Thomas Edison. They had a passion and put in tons of effort.
FIXED MINDSET: “It’s not my fault. It was something or someone else’s fault.”
GROWTH MINDSET: “If I don’t take responsibility, I can’t fix it. Let me listen—however painful it is– and learn whatever I can.”
The fourth step is to take the growth mindset action. After attempting problems over and over with the attitude that you can succeed no matter what challenges you or sets you back and using criticism to your advantage you will eventually become a natural growth mindset learner.
I will urge my students to become growth mindset learners by encouraging them to continue pushing when they have problems or fail at a task. I can do do this by giving them some advice or examples on how to do something differently and more effectively, or just pointing them in the right direction to solve a problem. I will try to help them maintain a positive attitude even when they fail. I will help them understand that they can learn as much from failing as they can from succeeding. Through repetition, watching videos about growth mindset learners, and modeling I plan to help my students learn from challenges, problems, setbacks, and criticism that they encounter daily. Incorporating the growth mindset into my classroom will reiterate the fact that all students are capable of growth and continued learning.
If we can get our students to accept the idea of “yet” they will benefit in more ways than if they simply say I can’t. Instead of them saying “I do not know how to do that problem”, we urge them to say “I do not know how to do that problem yet.” That will encourage learning throughout the campus. I really like the concept. I think it is simple and extremely effective, attainable, and beneficial for any learner, not just our students.
Encouraging my students to utilize “yet” and becoming a growth mindset learner is optimal for implementing my innovation plan. Right now my students have no idea how to create an e-portfolio. Many of them will be hesitant to create one because everything is new, unknown, and very challenging for them. It is my duty to encourage them in a positive way and give them opportunities to learn how to create and maintain their e-portfolio. Creating an e-portfolio for the first time is very difficult and can become overwhelming. They need to have the mindset of, “I don’t know how to make an e-portfolio yet” not “I can’t make an e-portfolio.” The are going to meet many challenges and sometimes want to give up, but I will be there to encourage them to stay positive. They will need to be an active growth mindset learner in order to overcome these challenges and setbacks.
This leads me into student praise. I personally believe every student does not deserve an award for simply participating in anything. If they do good, they are rewarded. If they do not do good they are told what they did wrong and a possible way to correct their shortcomings. The idea of praising effort – “You tried really hard.”, rather than ability – “You are really smart.” is in track with the way I feel. Praising ability or intelligence puts students in a fixed mind state, they often reject the chance to learn because they only want to do things they are already good at so they will receive praise. On the other hand, praising effort or process urges students to learn, they remain confident even when struggling, and they flourish even when not always right. They do not do the work for praise, they work to learn.
Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Random House.
Dweck, C. S. (n.d.). Mindset. Retrieved from mindsetonline.com/changeyourmindset/firststeps/index.html