Growth Mindset v Fixed Mindset

Posted in SSZ Briefings  ·  July 5th 2016

In an earlier Digest, we quoted from Carol Dweck.  (BTW, with her name she brings to 4 the total number of words in the English language beginning with dw-.  Do you know the other three?  Answer below!)

Dweck is a world-renowned psychologist.  She has done decades of research into achievement and success.  In the process, she has discovered what she believes is a truly groundbreaking idea – the power of the mindset.

In her book, “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success”, (2006 and 2008), she explains why it’s not just our abilities and talent that bring us success – but whether we approach our goals with a ‘fixed’ or ‘growth mindset’.

Controversially, she explains why praising our young people’s intelligence and ability may not foster their self-esteem and lead to achievement – it may actually jeopardise their success.  She goes on to explain that, with the right mindset, we can motivate our children and young people and so help them to improve – in school, in study and at home.

A ‘fixed mindset’ is one that says: “My abilities are carved in stone”.  This belief creates an urgency to prove yourself – over and over!  A ‘growth mindset’ however is based on a belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate and grow, through your own efforts.

As teachers or parents, we are always involved in trying to change our children in all sorts of ways.  We want them to be better learners, more motivated or aspirational, better students, more hard-working, more successful.  To achieve these changes, what do we do?  Well, we encourage them, we bribe them, sometimes we punish them – and we might even threaten them.  We sometimes teach them study skills, revision strategies, exam techniques in the hope these will make the difference.

And then we wonder why none of it works!  Dweck would say: “What about teaching them a ‘growth mindset’?”  Because, if we leave them with their ‘fixed mindset’, they will continue to believe that they cannot alter, that no matter what we do as teachers or parents, they are as they are and they cannot change.

The very powerful message of her book is that all of us – adults and young people – can change our mindset.

Answers: Dwell, Dwarf, Dwindle


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