The concept behind a growth mindset was developed by Dr. Carol Dweck. In her studies, she defines the key differences between a growth mindset and a fixed one. According to her research, she believes a fixed mindset is when a person believes that their qualities, like talent and intelligence, are fixed traits. Instead of developing them, they document them.
On the other hand, people with a growth mindset believe that they can develop their intelligence, talent, and various other skills through hard work and dedication. Simply put a growth mindset is when someone invests time and energy into growing their skill set with the aim of achieving certain goals. They seek new strategies and feedback from others in order to move forward and grow.
With the above in mind, a growth mindset is essential to teachers if they want to help their students reach their dreams. Additionally, this view creates a deeper love of learning and should be passed on to students so that they can start identifying challenges as opportunities to extend their learning further.
The Impact of a Growth Mindset on Students’ Ability to Learn
Teachers with a growth mindset educate their students in a way that encourages them to dig deeper into their studies. These educators use praise as a way of motivating their students. But, not all praises have the same impact. This was made increasingly clear thanks to a study by Claudia Mueller and Carol Dweck.
During the study, children aged nine to twelve years old were asked to complete a problem-solving game. All these children were told that they got 80% of the questions right and were then praised either for the amount of effort and hard work they put in, or their overall intelligence.
The results showed that children who were praised for their effort were more likely to persevere with future tasks. These children were also more likely to choose new tasks that allowed them to learn something new. Additionally, kids in this category said they enjoyed the task more than those who were praised on their intelligence.
Furthermore, most of the children praised for their intelligence wanted to know how their peers did during the task while only a small proportion of the children praised for effort asked about the other children. In fact, the majority of these kids asked for feedback in order to improve their own score. These children performed better during future tasks too.
With the above in mind, it’s clear that a growth mindset, or a mindset that encourages hard work and perseverance, has a positive impact on students. By praising a child’s effort and strategies rather than their intelligence and talent, they can take more ownership of their learning experience and, in turn, perform better in both school, and potentially, their future careers.
Growth Mindset Best Practices
Offer the Right Type of Praise
The first and most important best practice of developing a growth mindset as an educator is to pay close attention to the type of praise you give your students. As the study above suggests, scholars react more positively when praised for their effort and strategizing rather than their intelligence or talent. You don’t want your students to seek approval, you want them to learn.
Focus on the Journey, Not the End Results
In addition, make sure you always value the process that your students take over the end results. The key to engaging them is to encourage them to enjoy the learning process. The amount of time it takes for them to get to the end result isn’t as important as the strategies they use to get there. During each task, you want to emphasize growth over speed.
When teaching, never use the word failure. Instead, every time a child doesn’t meet a goal, remind them that it’s part of the learning curve. With this in mind, they’re not failing but learning. You also want to encourage students to take on tasks that they find more challenging. By embracing their weaknesses, they’ll eventually overcome them.
Use the Right Vocabulary
While teachers with years of experience may know which expressions encourage and discourage scholars, it can be difficult for students teachers to get this right first time around. With this in mind, a great way to adopt a growth mindset from the get-go is to use vocabulary that steers away from failure and encourages hard work.
One of the best terms you should use often in your classroom is “yet”. By adding this word to the end of what would normally be a negative sentence, you’re automatically showing students that it’s just a matter of time before they master the task at hand. An example would be “you haven’t reached quite the right conclusion yet”.
Set the Tone
Everything from your appearance, posture, attitude, eye contact, the way you speak, and your overall body language portrays a message about the type of teacher you are. It also makes a difference to how students engage with your lesson. Standing tall, pausing frequently, making eye contact with individual students, and a firm but friendly tone will show that you’re encouraging, passionate, and ready to work with your children to help them achieve their learning goals.
Adopting a growth mindset as a teacher doesn’t happen overnight. That said, by working with a team of experienced educators, you’ll be able to learn new techniques for addressing and working with your students so that you can encourage them to reach their goals both now and in the distant future.