Sometimes my students (and my own children) tell me they are not good at something, like reading, talking to a group, or catching pop flies. “You’re not good at it yet,” is my response. “What steps could you take to improve?”
By focusing on effort and the steps to meet a goal, rather than the results, we can help our children develop a growth mindset. The concept was coined by Stanford psychology professor Carol Dweck, who writes about the difference between “fixed” and “growth” mindsets in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (Amazon affiliate link). A person with a “fixed mindset,” according to Dweck, views intelligence and creativity as static traits, which a person needs to prove over and over by showing their successes and avoiding failure. In contrast, someone with a “growth mindset” seeks out new challenges and opportunities, viewing failure as a path toward growth and learning.
By nurturing a growth mindset in our kids, we give them a tool for becoming more resilient and more willing to stretch themselves. We help them to be eager learners undaunted by fear of failure. In a study of adolescent students, Dweck found that those who were praised for effort rather than test scores were more likely to embrace a harder challenge. Students praised for test results only were inclined to reject the offer of a challenging new task where they might no longer be able to succeed.
People of any age can change the way they approach success, failure, and new challenges. Here are some ideas for helping your children, students, or yourself develop a growth mindset and become more open to learning:
- Teach that the brain works like a muscleand that growth comes with repeated practice.
- Instead of telling students they are smart or praising test results, praise their effort and hard work.
- Embrace failures and missteps as a necessary and useful part of the learning process.
- Encourage kids to understand and discuss subject matter in a deeper way, rather than just looking for the right answer.
Check out this video too, for an introduction to the idea of the growth mindset: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUWn_TJTrnU.
Article by Elizabeth Sautter, M.A., CCC-SLP
Speech Language Pathologist & Executive Director of Communication Works