by Mayra Martinez
The difference between growth and fixed mindset and how a growth mindset can change your classroom.
There are two mindsets that have been discussed in education, the “Growth Mindset” and “Fixed Mindset.” Carol Dweck first introduced the terms in 2006 in her book called Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. In her book, she explains her mindset theory and how 30 years of research show how people succeed.
This article will answer the following:
Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset
People with a primarily fixed mindset believe that individuals have a fixed intelligence and ability. They do not embrace new ideas and avoid challenges and failures out of fear of being ridiculed and made to look stupid or inadequate in front of others. They say to themselves “why try if I know that I cannot do it”. They are usually defensive and do not like change. They do not want to be moved out of their comfort zone. They hate challenges and are disrupted by new ideas. This results in them having limiting life experiences and learning opportunities.
On the contrary, people with a dominant growth mindset believe that with enough practice, effort, and perseverance they will achieve their goal. They focus on the learning journey and welcome challenges into their lives because know they will become stronger and more competent. They know they have limitless potential and growth within them. They are not concerned with making mistakes or being embarrassed because they know this is a part of the growth process. They are open to suggestions and feedback because they know this will improve their craft or practice. They continuously work hard despite setbacks and remain flexible in the process. This sets the stage for a life full of growth and learning.
Mindset in Education
Many students have bought into the idea that talents, abilities, and qualities are fixed. For example, when people say “ I am not a math person” or “I am not good at art”. For many years people believed there were aspects of themselves they could not change until recently. Now more and more research is demonstrating that our brain has a lot more plasticity than originally believed and that our mindset can impact that plasticity, growth, and development of our learning.
Dweck demonstrates through her years of research that human intelligence, athleticism, and creativity can be developed. They are not fixed traits. This does not mean we will all become Michael Jordan or Albert Einstein, but it does suggest that each of us has some kind of impact and influence in our learning. All students have the capacity to grow and develop a love for learning. According to Popova, a growth mindset “creates a passion for learning rather than a hunger for approval" and with this mindset, the “priority is learning, not the binary trap of success and failure.”
Mindset and Student Achievement
The Project for Education Research That Scales (PERTS) is a research center at Stanford University that focuses on researching academic motivation. They showed that teaching the concept of growth mindset can positively affect student achievement. In a major study conducted by David Paunesku and his team, they presented a 45 minute intervention to 1500 students in 13 high schools in the United States about growth mindset. After the intervention, GPAs increased for all students including students who were at a “C” level in their classes or below.
If you are interested in learning more about the growth mindset for yourself or about teaching it to your students check out this website https://www.mindsetkit.org/ developed by PERTS to help educators learn and teach about mindset. It is a great resource full of lessons, videos, and worksheets.
Student and Teacher Mindset
The teacher’s mindset can dramatically affect the student’s mindset. This is why teachers need to be aware of their own mindset. Fixed-mindset teachers might think about situations as unchangeable. This can lead teachers into thinking their students’ potential is fixed and there isn’t much room for improvement. Students pick-up on these cues which in turn negatively impact their academic progress.
A growth mindset teacher will have the positive self-talk to overcome the struggle of wanting to stay in the safe zone. The teacher will challenge herself or himself to find a creative solution or resource to what seems like a difficult situation. If the teacher cannot effectively model a growth mindset to the students, then they will not have a growth mindset either. Students need to see a genuine growth mindset so that they can internalize the skills, vocabulary, and self talk. Below are some ways we as educators can model a growth mindset. Nobody is perfect, but let’s try our best.
Brock A. and Hundley H. (2016). The Growth Mindset Coach. Berkeley, CA: Ulysses Press.
Dweck, Carol. (2006). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.
Dweck, Carol. (2015, September 22). Carol Dweck Revisits the ‘Growth Mindset’. Retrieved from https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2015/09/23/carol-dweck-revisits-the-growth-mindset.html
Obe, Ruth. (2016, May 24). Growth Mindset or Fixed Mindset. Retrieved from https://medium.com/@ruth_obe/growth-mindset-a3b13566a78d
Popova, Maria. Fixed and Growth: The Two Basic Mindsets That Shape Our Lives. Retrieved from https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/01/29/carol-dweck-mindset/
Sprouts. (2015, April 15). Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/KUWn_TJTrnU
The Project for Education Research that Scales (PERTS). https://www.mindsetkit.org/