8 Easy steps to a growth mindset!
If you have read previous blogs on our webpage you would have heard of fixed and growth mindsets from Luke Smith, Senior School Psychologist. The impact of having a growth mindset has been studied by many different researchers around the world. The overwhelming majority of these have found that having a growth mindset is linked with receiving better grades. What is a growth mindset and why is it important in an education setting?
Growth mindset vs fixed mindset
A growth mindset is when we truly believe that our understanding and abilities can be continually developed. People with a growth mindset believe that they can get smarter, more intelligent or more talented through putting in time, effort and getting help from others. Although people differ in every way – talents, aptitudes, interests or temperaments – we can all change and grow through application and experience. Students that have a growth mindset embrace challenges given to them. They believe that effort and perseverance will bring them success and they will continue to develop and get better at the things put before them over time.
On the flipside, a fixed mindset is when we assume abilities and understanding are relatively fixed. People with a fixed mindset don’t believe that intelligence or talent can be enhanced, you either have it or you don’t! Believing your qualities are carved in stone, the fixed mindset thinks no amount of time or effort put in will help you to improve. Students with a fixed mindset are fearful of challenges, will avoid them if possible and give up easily. They assume that if you don’t have a natural ability you can’t improve and students who believe this to be true may achieve less than their full potential.
In the big scheme of things most of us are a blend of both depending on the situation or challenge placed before us. Take me for example; put a piece of music in front of me and I am right at home. Also, I will have a go at playing it and embrace the piece of music before me. On the other hand, ask me to draw a picture for you, well that is a totally different story! I can’t draw to save my life so I have a fixed mindset about that particular challenge. I do however, know that if I applied myself and practised drawing the same way I applied and practiced the piano then I could achieve a better result than my first attempt to draw. The more I practiced, the better I would become.
The challenge we have as educators is to change the perception that learning is about the outcome. The learning for students, and us, is the journey that we embark on when attempting new things. For many of us, there are failures along the way, (like me with my drawing) but this doesn’t mean that we will never achieve that skill. It just means that we haven’t learnt it yet. The journey will take us on different paths and some will be straight and others not. The trick is to continue to take up the challenges placed before us and to apply ourselves, take on feedback and continue to make the effort, then we will experience success along the way.
Dr Carol Dweck says, “Just [using] the words “yet” or “not yet,” we’re finding, give kids greater confidence, give[s] them a path into the future that creates greater persistence. And we can actually change students’ mindsets.”
Using the word “yet” is a powerful way to diffuse feelings of failure and encourage students to try again.
It is also powerful for us as adults, parents, teachers or leaders. We are all continually learning and are faced with challenges and an ever-changing environment around us. If we are not flexible or open to learning new things, we become outdated and very fixed in our ideas and views. In reality if we opened our minds to the possibilities of what could be, and embraced the challenges placed before us, the prospects could be endless. Those with a growth mindset are more likely to see every environment as a learning one and look for opportunities to improve their skills and equally, enhance their knowledge.
So how do we develop this growth mindset? Well, there are a number of ways to develop the foundation for a growth mindset; but these are my top eight:
- Believe in yourself and never give up!
- See failure as an opportunity to learn. Replace the word “failing” with the word “learning”.
- Cultivate self-awareness: be aware of your talents, strengths and your weaknesses.
- Value the learning process over the end result.
- View challenges as opportunities for self-improvement.
- Use the phrase “not yet” more often.
- Cultivate your grit (determination and perseverance).
- Take ownership of your own attitude and take pride in your developing growth mindset.
At Mandurah Baptist College it is our mission to provide a comprehensive curriculum which caters for the individual needs of all students, fostering a desire for learning and excellence. We believe in the potential of each student to succeed and grow.
Our staff are also continually learning, as research tells us, that the students’ perception of their own abilities and potential could drastically alter their performance. Teachers have a unique opportunity to influence the mindset of the students we interact with on a daily basis, so it is imperative that we use strategies in our classrooms to encourage a growth mindset over a fixed one. We believe that the students should be praised on their process of learning – the effort they put in and the strategies they use, as well as their focus, perseverance and continual improvement. We want students to be more engaged in the process of learning. We want students to focus on their potential, rather than their limits.
Just imagine for a minute if Steven Spielberg, Thomas Edison, Walt Disney, Albert Einstein, JK Rowling, Abraham Lincoln, Michael Jordan, Theodor Seuss Geisel, Vincent Van Gogh or Elvis Presley had given up on their dreams, and what the world would have missed out on if they had a fixed mindset instead of a growth mindset. All of these incredibly talented and famous people failed in their lives, they were told that they would never amount to anything or even told that they were stupid. Instead, they believed in themselves and continued to embrace the challenges in front of them and so, step by step they became some of the most successful people in the world.
Who are you going to be? The next Walt Disney or maybe the next Albert Einstein? Who knows, unless you change the way you think and embrace the concept of the growth mindset. Set the sails of life to be filled with the winds of knowledge, to take you on a journey to reach the full potential you have inside of you.
Michael Jordan famously said:
“I have missed more than 9 000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300
games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning
shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life.
And that is why I succeed.”
Nerida Middendorp – Head of Staff Development, Senior School