Growth Mindset

  • Growth Mindsets

    Carol Dweck’s Mindset- a powerful model for enhancing motivation.  Carol S Dweck is a psychologist working at Stanford University. For decades she has been researching into the field of achievement and success, and has created a new psychology of success based on Mindset.   Dweck’s ideas, well supported by extensive evidence, provide a psychology that supports the value of formative assessment, and provides strategies that will enhance motivation and engagement in learners.

    What are Mindsets?

    Dweck’s research has allowed her to distinguish two perspectives that people hold about their abilities (with approximately 15% undecided). People can have different mindsets towards different aspects of their lives, e.g. a fixed mindset towards their ability to do maths, but a growth mindset towards their ability to play tennis.

    Fixed Mindsets

    Intelligence is fixed. Challenges are avoided, as to fail suggests that they ‘lack the intelligence’ required. Effort is seen as fruitless- if they don’t ‘get it’ then it suggests that they lack the intelligence. Getting things wrong and receiving feedback is negative- it reveals limitations.

    Growth Mindsets

    Intelligence can be developed. Challenges are embraced as it is believed that they can improve at a task. Effort therefore is seen as worthwhile- a path to mastery. Getting things wrong and receiving feedback is positive- it guides further improvement.

    Mindsets change the meaning of failure

    Failure, even for individuals who have a growth mindset can still be painful- but it doesn’t define you as a learner. Failure reveals problems that must be faced, dealt with and learned from. Failure should provide feedback and a solution to be followed.




    Five Quick things you can do to help develop a growth mindset in kids:

    1)      Ask open ended questions to solve problems or achieve a goal.

    ü  Focus attention on the effort and strategies that might help your child succeed.  “What do you think will happen if…”, “Why do you suppose….”, or “What steps do you think you’ll need to take….”  These questions build logical thinking skills and often lead to rich discovery.

    2)      Use specific feedback that identifies what the child accomplished.

    ü  What small steps led to a larger outcome?  Be supportive when your child attempts something new.  Skills that build persistence simultaneously allow children to feel confidence and independence.  When frustration rears its head, offer an encouraging word about what steps worked well.

    3)      Encourage kids to take an achievable risk.

    ü  Watch and listen to your child so you can take cues about what else they are ready to tackle.  Vygotsky calls this the “zone of proximal development”- when we gently nudge kids to use what they know to try something just a bit out of their reach, but yet developmentally appropriate.  By offering small but achievable challenges, confidence and persistence emerge.

    4)      Be persistent and growth orientated yourself.

    ü  Narrate your thoughts as you try something new or frustrating.  Your child may even be able to offer some helpful hints.  This allows children to see we all have to work hard to solve problems and we all continue to learn new things.

    5)      Don’t sweat the small stuff.

    ü  Accidents and mistakes happen.  Show your child that there’s something to be learned when we do not achieve what we set out to accomplish.  Be specific about what worked, identify the emotions involved, and offer encouragement for the next time. J