SUPPORTING A GROWTH MINDSET
by Angie Williams
A growth mindset is one characterized by the view that intelligence and skill can be obtained and increased through effort. In a growth mindset, the brain is rightly understood to be malleable, and mistakes and challenges are a natural and healthy part of learning. A fixed mindset, on the other hand, views intelligence as predetermined and set. Someone with a fixed mindset sees little value in practice and effort because he or she does not think it will change outcomes. A fixed mindset can be detrimental both to the individual who does not believe he or she can be successful in a given area as well as for the one who develops an inflated view of his or her intelligence.
Because having a growth mindset is an important predictor of future success in many areas of life, it is important that adults help to foster a growth mindset in children. Psychologist and researcher Carol Dweck has studied the growth mindset in children and states,
“If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning.”
While much research and literature about the growth mindset focuses on elementary-aged and older children, adults can encourage even young children to value effort over outcomes in service of deep and lifelong learning as well as in building resiliency.
For example, these are ways to stimulate a growth mindset:
• Praising Effort
• Accepting Failures
• Ask for Explanations
• Express the Amount of work put in
• “Your Brain is Growing”
• Praise the PROCESS!
These actions, in contrast, may discourage a growth mindset:
• Praising Outcomes
• Criticizing Failures
• Telling children the answers
• Labeling or Judging student/work
• Telling them they “tried their best”
• Praising the PERSON
We can also share stories with children of characters (real or imagined) who failed and persevered: