In part 1 of Beyond the Classroom’s series on Carol Dweck, we discussed her pioneering work on the “Growth Mindset” and how this theory works. Here we will compare the fixed versus the growth mindset and provide some practical applications of Carol Dweck’s research that you can apply both at school and at home.
Are people born ‘smart’? Fixed vs. Growth Mindsets
Do you think we are born smart and that our intelligence is predetermined by genetics? Individuals with a fixed mindset believe intelligence and talent are innate and absolute. In other words, no matter how much you study or how hard you work, you’re pretty much stuck with the cards you were dealt at birth – there is simply no way ‘up’. Since a student with a fixed mindset believes their potential is capped, they avoid challenges which truly test their abilities and therefore plateau in school rather than reach for the stars so to speak.
Carol Dweck’s research shows us that the brain is not absolute, but rather like a muscle which can grow and develop abilities which are nurtured through hard work and dedication. These are the hallmarks of a growth mindset. Kids with growth mindsets feel what they are born with are just raw materials – a launching point from which to grow.
Students for whom performance is paramount want to look smart even if it means not learning a thing in the process.” ~Carol Dweck
Are we raising Fixed Mindset Students? How does this impact my children?
Dweck’s research proves that teaching a growth mindset creates motivation and productivity in the worlds of business, education and sports. Growth mindsets see challenges as an opportunity to learn. For example, let’s imagine a 12 year old girl, Sarah. Sarah wants to try out for the school soccer team, but she is nervous to do so and afraid of failure. This is a fixed mindset. If Sarah developed a growth mindset, she would view the soccer tryouts as an avenue to improve her talents and increase her knowledge. Her self-image would not be tied to her success at the tryouts or how she would look to others, but rather her efforts would be viewed as a path to master useful soccer skills. According to Go Strengths.com, “growth mindset kids take on more challenges, engage in more activities, receive better grades and exhibit greater resilience in the face of adversity.”
- At the end of the day, students with a growth mindset believe that intelligence can be developed. These students focus on learning over just looking smart, see effort as the key to success, and thrive in the face of a challenge.
- Students with a fixed mindset believe that people are born with a certain amount of intelligence and they can’t do much to change that. These students focus on looking smart over learning, see effort as a sign of low ability and wilt in the face of a challenge.
- Students with a growth mindset do better in school.
Anyone can cultivate a growth mindset as mindsets are simply this – a choice. Here, Go Strengths.com shares some great tips that parents can use at home to foster a growing and positive mindset in your children:
- Praise the process: Try to avoid labeling kids. Parents and teachers apply labels to kids all the time (you are smart, pretty, fast, creative etc.). It seems like an innocent (even loving) practice, but consistently placing labels on kids contributes to fixed mindset attitudes. They become scared to try things and lose their labels! Change fixed mindsets by changing the way you praise children. Praise processes instead of character. For example:
Fixed mindset praise: “You are so talented!” (character praise)
Growth mindset praise: “You’re getting good at passing the ball in high-pressure situations.” (process praise)
- Mindsets are a choice – Teach your children that adopting a fixed or growth mindset is a choice. Next time an opportunity presents itself, make a 2-column list of what a fixed mindset individual might think and what a growth mindset individual would think about the particular situation. Help your kids make a choice to think with a positive growth mindset! Let’s work to change that internal voice from, “Hey, if you take on this challenge, you might fail,” to “Hey, if you take on a challenge, you might learn something.”