Growth Mindset is the idea that your talents and abilities can be improved through hard work and perseverance. When individuals with a growth mindset are presented with a challenge, they use problem solving strategies to overcome, and successfully complete their task. Completing these challenges can be long term or short term accomplishments.
Dr. Carol Dweck, a Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, is known for her work on the mindset psychological trait. Her primary research includes motivation, personality, and development. Dweck explains three common misconceptions about growth mindset:
- Growth mindset is not just having a positive outlook or being open-minded.
- Rewarding just children’s or adults’ effort is not supporting growth mindset. Rewarding the process and strategies taken to achieve a goal supports growth mindset.
- Learning significant and useful lessons, even if the original goal hasn’t been accomplished, is still just as important to celebrate.
The science behind a growth mindset:
Psychologist Jason Moser studied the neural mechanisms that operate in people’s brains when they make mistakes. According to his study, those with a growth mindset had considerably higher brain activity when making a mistake, than those who show a fixed mindset. Their brain signaled conscious attention to a mistake and as a result grow a synapse, a brain spark. The study found that individuals with a growth mindset had a greater awareness of their mistakes, and were more likely to go back and correct those mistakes.
What does this mean for our children?
In a study conducted by Lisa Blackwell, Kali Trzesniewski, and Carol Dweck, they measured two groups of 7th graders. Students in group 1 were introduced to intervention lessons that taught growth mindset, while the students in group 2 did not receive these lessons. These lessons taught students to push out of their comfort zone to learn something new and difficult. The neurons in their brain form new, stronger connections over time and as a result become smarter. Students who were not taught this growth mindset, group 2, continued to show declining grades over their school transition. Students who were taught this lesson, group 1, showed a sharp rebound of their grades.
A majority of children are motivated to get that A+ on their assignment, or a shout out from their teacher during a lesson for getting an answer correct. Children have been raised in an environment in which getting the right answer is the only way to achieve success. At times when children do not receive the accurate solution, they feel defeated and give up. They begin to reflect on themselves and think that there is nothing they can do to get the right answer because they are just not smart enough. As children grow to become adults, this mindset prevents them from being able to partake in opportunities that allow them to become successful in their career.
We need to praise wisely. This means praising the process that kids engage in, not just their intelligence. We want to highlight their effort, strategies, focus, perseverance, and improvement. Growth mindset creates individuals who become resilient, don’t back down to a challenge, and outperform others in their careers.
“Mind Your Errors” by Jason Moser, Hans Schroder, Carrie Heeter, and Tom Moran, 2011
“Implicit Theories of Intelligence Predict Achievement Across an Adolescent Transition: A Longitudinal Study and an Intervention” by Lisa Blackwell, Carol Dweck, and Kali Trzesniewski, 2007