Growth Mindset

Wednesday 31 Jan

You can expect to regularly hear the term ‘growth mindset’ as 2018 unfolds. Please allow me to explain.

In September last year, together with our School Council Chair and Director of Learning and Innovation, I had the privilege of spending time at Stanford University in Silicon Valley, sitting at a table with Professor Carol Dweck. Dweck, a Professor of Psychology, began her work with the question, ‘Why do some kids strive and cope in the face of obstacles and others not, despite their abilities?’ She was curious to learn more about why some students love challenge, while others who may be equally talented, shy away from challenges and play it safe. Significant research led to her coining the terms fixed mindset and growth mindset, which have since received international acclaim.

Fixed Mindset: In a fixed mindset students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that's that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb.

Growth Mindset: In a growth mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don't necessarily think everyone's the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it.’ Dweck, 2012

Dweck’s research shows that praising children’s intelligence or offering false praise (praising effort when it wasn’t there or wasn’t effective) harms motivation and, longer term, harms performance. She is quoted as saying, ‘… Teach children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning. That way, children don’t have to be slaves of praise. They will have a lifelong way to build and repair their own confidence.’ In a BBC interview in 2011, she explained that we should praise effort and never talent, that we should teach children to see challenges as learning opportunities rather than threats, and that we should emphasise how abilities can be transformed. She says that, when children are deeply, excitedly, persistently and authentically involved in a learning process, achievement will follow. Experiences from around the world have shown that, when parents and teachers adopt this approach and persist with it, the results are remarkable.

The latest in neuroscience research that shows how the brain can change, grow and reorganise for learning, supports Dweck’s research.

For those who prefer a visual representation, this short YouTube clip offers a wonderfully simple overview of the difference between a fixed and a growth mindset and the impact that mindset can have a child’s future direction.

Additional links that provide more powerful background include:

As part of our 2018 professional learning program, our teachers have commenced a Stanford University course to develop Maths through a growth mindset. As our teachers progress through the course, you can expect to see cultural developments in the classroom. Examples include:

  • Understanding and embracing mindset philosophy, as opposed to judging abilities
  • Developing an environment where children feel safe to take risks, to venture out of their comfort zones and to accept feedback
  • Failure being valued as a necessary part of the learning process
  • Dealing with setbacks matter-of-factly (eg ‘it happens’, ‘what did you learn from it?’), to assist children in developing resilience in the face of obstacles
  • Authentic praise for effort and action, as opposed to false praise or reassurance for effort or action that isn’t there or isn’t effective
  • A shift away from the pressure to perform and get good grades, and towards curiosity and a love for learning (knowing that, in turn, this will result in greater academic performance)
  • Celebrating improvement over time
  • Students celebrating the effort and successes of their peers

The introduction of growth mindset to Living Faith is relevant not only to students, but to the adults in our community too, as we all continue to become the individuals God created us to be. We trust you will enjoy the ride!

- Jane Mueller