What is a mindset and what’s the difference between growth and fixed mindset?
- Fixed Mindset – people with a fixed mindset believe that their qualities are unchangeable; simply a hand that they have been dealt and which they have to live with.
- Growth Mindset – people with a growth mindset believe that their qualities are things that can be cultivated through effort, and that the hand they’ve been dealt is simply a starting point for development.
These two mindsets shape the way you approach challenges and obstacles, the way you think about effort, the way you receive and apply criticism, as well as how you think about the success of others.
People with a growth mindset see failure as an opportunity to grow, believe that their effort and attitude determine their abilities, enjoy trying new things, and value the process more than the outcome. In a growth mindset, effort is considered essential for success. Alternatively, people with a fixed mindset associate effort and hard work with a lack of ability. People with a fixed mindset don’t like being challenged, give up more easily when they are challenged, and think of themselves as being successful when they have to invest little effort to obtain a desirable outcome. These people think that they can either do something or they can’t and that’s that.
It’s important to note that people don’t have either a growth mindset or a fixed mindset. Instead, mindsets lay on a continuum, and you can have a different mindset for different areas of your life.
In her TED Talk, Carol Dweck talks about the power of believing you can improve and introduces the word “yet” as a tool for cultivating a growth mindset.
How can I shift from a fixed to a growth mindset?
- Learn to hear your fixed mindset voices.
- Recognize you have a choice.
- Talk back to the fixed mindset with a growth mindset.
- Take the growth mindset action.
These four steps describe the process of rewiring your brain. I would personally like to add a fifth step: Repeat. The growth mindset uses a different neural pathway than the fixed mindset and shifting mindset forces you to use these different pathways. By repeating the above four steps over and over and over again, you slowly weaken the neural pathways associated with a fixed mindset and strengthen those related to a growth mindset. Over time, the growth mindset will become more natural and easier to access than the fixed mindset.
How can I cultivate a growth mindset in my students?
A major influence on a child’s mindset is what kind of feedback (praise of criticism) they receive. Feedback can take one of two forms, depending on whether it’s focused on the person or the process.
- Person or trait-related feedback – focused on the person’s abilities and characteristics (ex. “You are really smart”)
- Process feedback – focused on the person’s strategies or effort (ex. “You worked really hard”)
- Focus on students’ strategies and hard work, tying them to progress and learning
- Treat mistakes, challenges, and even failures as something beneficial for learning, rather than something that reflects badly on students’ abilities
- Give students meaningful problems where they are challenged to apply their learning, rather than memorization tasks that involve simple recitation of facts and procedures
- Give students clear feedback for improvement and a chance to revise their work to experience and demonstrate deepened understanding
- Problem-solve with students and help them get unstuck. Sit down with a student and say, “Show me what you’ve done – let’s figure out how you’re thinking and what you can try next”.
What are the benefits of a growth mindset?
The benefits of a growth mindset are seemingly endless, so let’s focus on two primary areas of interest:
Where can I learn more?
What will students learn?
By the end of this lesson, students will be able to…
- Identify and define growth mindset
- Distinguish between growth and fixed mindset
- Describe the benefits of growth mindset
- Take steps to develop a growth mindset
- Use growth mindset to actively seek out learning opportunities, respond positively to constructive feedback, view failure as an opportunity to grow, and pursue supportive relationships
Claro, S., & Loeb, S. (2017). New evidence that students’ beliefs about their brains drive learning.
Evidence Speaks Reports, 2(29). https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/claro-and-loeb-report.pdf
Claro, S., Paunesku, D., & Dweck, C. (2016). Growth mindset tempers the effects of poverty on
academic achievement. PNAS, 113(31), 8664-8669. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1608207113
Crocker, J., & Knight, K. M. (2005). Contingencies of self-worth. Current directions in psychological
science, 14(4), 200-203.
Dweck, C. (2007). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Ballantine Books.
Dweck, C. (2016). To encourage a growth mindset, pass it on. Times Educational Supplement, 5192.
Dweck, C., & Kamins, M. (1999). Person Versus Process Praise and Criticism: Implications for
Contingent Self-Worth and Coping. Developmental Psychology, 35(3), 835–847.
Haimovitz, K., & Henderlong Corpus, J. (2011). Effects of person versus process praise on student
motivation: stability and change in emerging adulthood. Educational Psychology, 31(5), 595–609. https://doi.org/10.1080/01443410.2011.585950
Lakey, C., Hirsch, J., Nelson, L., & Nsamenang, S. (2014). Effects of Contingent Self-Esteem on
Depressive Symptoms and Suicidal Behavior. Death Studies, 38(9), 563–570. https://doi.org/10.1080/07481187.2013.809035
Lexia (n.d.). 6 Tips to Help Students Develop a Growth Mindset in the Classroom. Lexia: A Rosetta
O’Keefe, P., Dweck, C., & Walton, G. (2018). Implicit Theories of Interest: Finding Your Passion or
Developing It? Psychological Science, 29(10), 1653–1664. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797618780643
Schleider, J., & Weisz, J. (2018). A single‐session growth mindset intervention for adolescent anxiety
and depression: 9‐month outcomes of a randomized trial. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 59(2), 160–170. https://doi.org/10.1111/jcpp.12811
Yeager, D., Hanselman, P., Walton, G., Murray, J., Crosnoe, R., Muller, C., Tipton, E., Schneider, B.,
Hulleman, C., Hinojosa, C., Paunesku, D., Romero, C., Flint, K., Roberts, A., Trott, J., Iachan, R., Buontempo, J., Yang, S., Carvalho, C., … Dweck, C. (2019). A national experiment reveals where a growth mindset improves achievement. Nature, 573(7774), 364–2. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-019-1466-y
Yettick, H., Lloyd, S., Harwin, A., Riemer, A., & Swanson, C. B. (2016). Mindset in the Classroom: A
National Study of K-12 Teachers. Editorial Projects in Education. https://www.edweek.org/media/ewrc_mindsetintheclassroom_sept2016.pdf