If you’re like most educators, you’ve probably already heard of Stanford Professor Carol Dweck and her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, but do you know how to apply her principles and create a growth mindset classroom?
According to Dweck, most people have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset and these mindsets are usually taught at a young age by parents, teachers, coaches, and peers. Most people are unaware of their mindset and the labels they give themselves. Many students often categorize themselves at either good or bad. Take for example math, a student who races through math assignments and often receives high marks will label himself as good. He often receives praise from his parents, teacher, and even peer as being good at math. On the other hand, a student that struggles with math will label himself as being bad at math. The problem with both of these students is that they are more likely to give up than students with a growth mindset. The student who is good at math, will do whatever it takes to remain good at math, as long as it doesn’t become too difficult. Once the math becomes too difficult for the student to achieve and the student sees failure as imminent they give up. The student who sees himself as bad at math will also give up easily when faced with difficult math problems because he doesn’t see himself as succeeding at math.
So what is a growth mindset?
A growth mindset is when you see your abilities as neither good nor bad. You view your skills as something to constantly develop. Natural intelligence does not dictate if you are smart or not, instead, hard work and dedication do. According to Dweck this mindset fosters a love of learning that is essential to accomplishment. Students who believe that if they work hard and persevere they will become smarter will learn more and at a faster rate. They will see challenges not as failures but as opportunities to improve.
How do you cultivate a growth mindset?
Providing encouragement is important to the success of all students, without it students have a difficult time being motivated. However, the type of encouragement you provide will lead to either a fixed or a growth mindset classroom. Instead of saying, “great job”, “you’re awesome” “you’re talented”. Praise their hard work by saying “I can see you worked really hard” “I appreciate your curiosity” and “I’m happy you’re so dedicated”. The latter encourage perseverance and a growth mindset.
It is common in our society to think of a mistake as something to be avoided. Having this mindset discourages us to try new things for fear of failure. By creating a classroom where children are encouraged to challenge themselves, they will often make mistakes. Teach your students that mistakes are okay and that it is important we learn from them.
Lead by Example
Students learn the most from you and your actions. If your students see you cultivating a growth mindset in your actions they are going to be more responsive to implementing the concept in their own lives. Share your successes and struggles with implementing a growth mindset with your students. Remember, a growth mindset is something to continually work at, not something that will happen over night.