How do we achieve success? Is it talent? Is it effort? Is it both? These are some of the questions Dr. Carol Dweck addresses as she introduces the mindsets and their very important differences.
Mindset- even though it is a fairly simple idea, the results that stem from it are huge! In this aspect, mindset refers to the attitude towards the process of learning. What are these mindsets? Dr. Carol Dweck, a Stanford University psychologist, discovered two extremely different attitudes toward learning, and titled them the fixed and growth mindsets.
“People are all born with the love of learning, but the fixed mindset can undo it”
The fixed mindset focuses on natural talent and intelligence as being fixed traits. Individuals with this mindset tend to believe that what you are given is what you have. Fixed mindset individuals believe that talent alone is enough to succeed, overcome obstacles, and achieve goals. “People are all born with the love of learning, but the fixed mindset can undo it” (Dweck, 2006, p.53). When things get tough, learners with this mindset want out. Think of a child attempting an adult level puzzle. When they realize this puzzle is not as easy as what they are used to, chances are, they will want to give up after a very short time of working on the puzzle. This is the fixed mindset at its finest, working on the individual to give up on achieving their goals.
“People with the fixed mindset have just as much confidence as people with growth mindset- before anything happens, that is” (Dweck, 2006, p.51). When things get tough, and students fail, whether they give up and quit, or come back stronger, will depend on the mindset and attitude they have toward the subject and learning as a whole.
The growth mindset focuses on the fact that talent and intelligence is developed through hard work, endurance, and effort, rather than being a naturally occurring fixed trait. In this mindset, “brains and talent are just the starting point” (“Mindset | What is mindset,” n.d.). This mindset creates a sense of resiliency that allows the individuals to bounce back from any setbacks or obstacles that may hinder them and successfully reach their goals. Teaching a growth mindset creates motivation and productivity in the worlds of business, education, and sports (“Mindset | What is mindset,” n.d.).
Adopting and implementing the growth mindset is extremely important for learners today. Today’s world is more advanced and complex than ever before. Students of today, who will become employees of tomorrow are expected to be able to complete challenging tasks, solve complex problems, and design creative solutions- especially in the industrial field. We need students that are not afraid of making mistakes, but instead will take the feedback from these errors, make necessary revisions, and re-create their solutions bigger and better than before. If individuals cannot learn from their own mistakes, then how will they ever advance or grow? We need people that do not care how they compare to other individuals, but instead, how they compare to their job duties and responsibilities. Am I meeting the mark? Am I completing projects safely and efficiently? “They’re not constantly trying to prove they’re better than others… Instead, they are constantly trying to improve” (Dweck, 2006, p.110). We need students and employees who will embrace challenges and view them as an opportunity to see what they are truly capable of.
I have heard stories time and time again about high ranking students from high school going to college and dropping out before completing their degree. Although I too had an extremely difficult time transitioning from salutatorian of my high school class to college life, I have never understood this. “College is when all the students who were the brains in high school are thrown together” (Dweck, 2006, p.60). I now understand that this is because I have a different mindset than some of those other people. I have the type of mindset that I want each and every one of my students to have. I do not care how many times I may fail at something, each time I make mistakes and spot flaws in my work, it only makes me more determined, stronger, and motivated to complete it successfully. This is what employers want.
“They’re not constantly trying to prove they’re better than others… Instead, they are constantly trying to improve”
Employers do not want employees who will essentially give up after one or two mistakes. “For students with the growth mindset, it doesn’t make sense to stop trying” (Dweck, 2006, p.59). I was so proud of two of my students in our motor control lab last week. Class was coming to an end, and several groups had not completed their lab assignment. I had told the class that I would be available as long as they were willing to stay after and work on it, but I did not want to tell them all how to do it right then. I told them I wanted them to continue to try, and if they didn’t get it, to go home and think about it and talk to classmates until our next class. After failing time and time again; after many tripped breakers, tearing the circuit apart, and rewiring from scratch, they finally completed their circuit twenty-five minutes after class was supposed to be over. When this group called me over to check their 100% correctly working circuit, I praised them and told them how proud I was of them for sticking with it, staying after, and correcting their mistakes. This was before I read anything about growth mindsets, but my students response keeps standing out in my head; she responded, “Mrs. Hoke, once I start something, I literally can’t quit until I complete it. If I can’t figure it out, it will drive me crazy until I do.” I admire their hard work, their effort, and their time they put into my assignment, and in turn, I know they learned some extremely valuable lessons that they will be using for the rest of the semester, as well as in the field.
Carol Dweck offers a simple 4 step process to help individuals change from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. Even though the steps are short and precise, we need to note that this is still a process, and nothing happens overnight.
- Learn to hear your fixed mindset “voice.”
- Recognize that you have a choice.
- Talk back to it with a growth mindset voice.
- Take the growth mindset action.
- These steps basically ask the individuals to understand the difference between the two mindset. Once we understand the differences, we must then begin to identify and notice our fixed mindset voice. This step is extremely important because this is where the transition begins.
- Once we hear and identify that voice telling us we can’t do something, or cautioning us from possible failure, we need to realize that we have a choice. If we stick with the fixed mindset, we can see out setbacks and obstacles as failure and an ending point; or if we move to the growth mindset we can see them as opportunities to learn and grow as we try new things to complete tasks.
- After we make our choice to the mindset we desire, we must talk back to the fixed mindset voice and begin to answer in ways that support our mindset. As we move to the growth mindset, we should begin thinking in terms of, “I’m not sure I can do it, but I know I can after hard work and effort”, or “If I do not attempt this project, I will definitely not succeed”.
- Now that we have identified the voices and recognized that we have a choice, now it is time to take action. What will we do to help us maintain this mindset. Each task we complete should support the growth mindset.
Growth mindset individuals recognize obstacles, setbacks, and challenges as growth opportunities to improve themselves and enhance their knowledge. They realize that people are not built with natural intelligence or talent that cannot be further developed. This is important because they do not limit themselves on their abilities. These individuals keep the opportunity doors open, and while they may not be able to complete it now, they will be able to one day. This is the power of yet. We need to turn our student’s “I can’t do this” into “I can’t do this, yet”. With this attitude it opens doors for students they never thought were possible. It breaks chains and barriers that limit them to being a math person, or an artistic person, and gives them the optimistic attitude that they can achieve anything they set their minds to with the right amount of hard work, dedication, motivation, and practice.
My students will definitely benefit from learning about the growth mindset. I am excited to introduce them to the power of yet. I am not going to plan a lesson or special time to introduce it to them. I am going to simply wait for one of my students to complain about something being too difficult, or wait until I see someone on the verge of walking out of lab because they did not get it right on the first try, then I am going to introduce the entire class to the power of yet. “It’s about learning something over time: confronting a challenge and making progress” (Dweck, 2006, p.14). I will explain to them how one mistake, or one setback should never be allowed to prevent you from accomplishing your goals; instead, it should create a stronger determination to push you to your limits to complete the task even better than expected! “Nobody laughs at babies and says how dumb they are because they can’t talk. They just haven’t learned- yet” (Dweck, 2006, p.219).
I plan to offer some of Carol Dweck’s readings and videos as resources for growth mindset transitioning, training, and development. I want my learners to know that this is not something I randomly dreamed up over the weekend. There is actual scientific, documented data that supports these ideas. I also want to work on my own personal feedback to my students. I want to make sure I am praising their efforts and their process, not their intelligence or score alone. I want my students to understand that their hard work is extremely valuable to me.
When we get away from the idea of labels and stereotypes, and focus more on learning and the knowledge retained, we will become a much smarter community. “When you’re given a positive label, you’re afraid of losing it” (Dweck, 2006, p.75). When we start praising kids at young ages for being smart, we give them a label that is likely to hinder them in the long run. Praise the process, not the product.
Image Source: Google Images, licensed for non-commercial reuse with modifications
Better than yesterday image. http://likesuccess.com/topics/15681/growth-mindset. Retrieved from Google Images on September 22, 2016.
Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Random House.
Hard work and learning Image. http://quotesgram.com/quotes-about-growth-mindset/. Retrieved from Google Images on September 22, 2016.
Mindset | What is mindset. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://mindsetonline.com/whatisit/about/
Problems are guidelines. http://likesuccess.com/topics/15681/growth-mindset. Retrieved from Google Images on September 22, 2016.
To-do list Image. http://quotesgram.com/quotes-about-growth-mindset/. Retrieved from Google Images on September 22, 2016.