Teaching Children To Have A Growth Mindset
By: Leila Alhabib
The idea of having a growth mindset is constantly thrown around in media and educational settings. While the standard definition of “believing in oneselves ability to grow” is understandable, learning more about the background of this theory can lead to easier applications of it.
The origins of this concept come from psychologist Carol Dweck, who was born in 1946 and is currently continuing her work as a Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. In her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, she introduced the “different mindsets” people can have. Along with this, she explained how identifying these mindsets can be used to teach students.
In her book, Carol theorizes that the human brain is always in a certain “mindset”, which is how a person perceives themselves, as well as their limits and capabilities. Mindset’s can be applied in any circumstance, whether one believes they are a good or bad driver, or even thinking of oneself as an introvert or extrovert. These mindsets exist for everyone, and it impacts how you approach different situations and tasks. While two people may have the same skill in writing, someone who sees themselves as a good writer will have a much different outcome than a person who doesn’t.
This leads to the introduction of the two separate mindsets in Carol’s Theory: The Fixed Mindset and the Growth Mindset.
Growth vs. Fixed Mindset
A big part of teaching into having a growth mindset is the vocabulary you use when praising or correcting the actions of a child. Especially in an educational setting, simple words that may seem meaningless and unimportant can impact how children begin to think of themselves, and could change their view on what they are learning.
For example, take a classroom of 1st graders that are learning how to add numbers. 2 different students believe that 11+7 = 17. Student 1 is scolded for being incorrect, and is given the correct answer. Student 2 is pushed to try again, with constructive criticism of what they did wrong the first time.
Later on when student 1 approaches an addition problem, he simply sees his limits as numbers below ten, and gives up when it comes to larger numbers since he is “not good at math”. Although, student 2 has learned to push himself, and practices until they are able to do the problem without the distance.
This highlights the difference between having a growth mindset and a fixed mindset. Although, teachers are not the only ones that are responsible for the mindset that children develop. How children are treated at home, their habits, and personality traits also have a great impact on what mindset children grow up with. Although, through small acts of encouragement in the classroom, a teacher can influence a child’s learning process for the rest of their lives.
Having a growth mindset is crucial in learning as it is what motivates people to try new things. Believing that oneself is capable of a new task increases the desire and curiosity to do so. On the other hand, a person who has a fixed mindset only does the things that they think are good at, which limits their growth and learning as a person and in various educational fields.
Teaching Into Having a Growth Mindset
The psychological findings behind having a growth and fixed mindset might be difficult to teach to young children, therefore here are some practical and applicable methods that can be applied which can instigate a growth mindset amongst children.
- One way of introducing this mindset is to set examples from your own life where you’ve recovered from a challenge in the past. For instance, a math teacher might share the story of a failing grade they received when they were younger, that pushed them to practice more and get to where they are today.
- Motivational posters are also impactful in the classroom. Posters with the growth mindset ideology, spreading messages such as “Don’t Give Up” and “Practice Makes Perfect” can positively affect a child that is struggling.
- Talking about the power of the brain, as well as the fact that all humans are capable of learning. Oftentimes when students struggle they see it as a personal problem, and see themselves as less than everyone else who is able to understand. Reminders about the potential of every human brain are helpful in helping children develop a growth mindset.
- Consistently teaching into the idea that being wrong and making mistakes is okay is an easy practice that can create a growth mindset for children. Notbeing scolded and being pushed to tryagain as a habit can teach a child to think in this way when they are faced with a problem on their own.
- Teaching children to take and give feedback is helpful in developing this mindset. Identifying constructive criticism teaches children the difference between advice that can be helpful to growth, and hurtful words that bring them down.
- In order to see when to help a child, you must communicate about their feelings. Learning whether a child feels unmotivated or unsure of themselves can tell an educator what steps to take to change the child’s mindset.
Having a growth mindset is something that is helpful for people of all ages and it is something that is not often practiced amongst adults. Usually middle aged people who work in a certain field develop a fixed mindset, becoming very skilled in their own work, but becoming hesitant or even resisting trying new things.
Becoming aware of this fixed mindset is the first step to breaking out of it. Once a person has developed a growth mindset, they are capable of learning many other new things that they held themselves back from before.
Just like every learning theory, the idea of teaching towards a Growth Mindset is not a confirmed science. In certain settings, actively trying to teach with this theory in mind may be ineffective or not be best fit for your students. The education process is different for students and it is the educator’s growth mindset that can leads to trying new methods and concepts in teaching.
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“Growth Mindset Definition.” The Glossary of Education Reform, 29 Aug. 2013, www.edglossary.org/growth-mindset/#:~:text=The%20concept%20of%20a%20growth,inform%20how%20they%20teach%20students.
Dweck, C. S. (n.d.). Mindset: The New Psychology Of Success. Ballantine Books, 2008.
Biglifejournal.com. “How to Teach Growth Mindset to Kids.” Big Life Journal, https://biglifejournal.com/blogs/blog/teach-growth-mindset-kids-activities.