Have you ever had a student who loses heart if they get stuck or make mistakes?
Some people learn better visually while others need to write things down. If everyone learns differently, then it follows that not every strategy for attaining knowledge will work the same for every student. As support professionals, we want to help students’ motivation when it comes to learning, which is the foundation of the growth mindset.
A growth mindset posits that with hard work, help from others and strong learning strategies one can develop abilities. On the other hand, a fixed mindset states that talents are what they are and can’t be improved.
Research shows that a growth mindset positively impacts motivation which leads to students focusing on learning and doing better in their classes.
Unfortunately, according to Carol Dweck, the Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, not all teachers fully understand the concept.
She wants to make sure anyone who supports students can recognize, and ideally overcome, what she calls a false growth mindset.
She describes the mindset concept in more detail and gives examples of red flags in Recognizing and Overcoming False Growth Mindset. One example is that teachers would praise students’ effort even if they weren’t learning, which ultimately meant they weren’t getting the help they may have needed.
Changing a fixed mindset to a growth mindset often requires taking risks.
Teachers and student support professionals alike need to foster that mindset in their students, but that means embracing it themselves, according to Dweck.
Dweck offers some ways to help instill a growth mindset in students which can mean understanding it’s okay not to be successful on the first try every time.
Shedding a fixed mindset can be difficult, but we can see this happen when supporters give students:
- Meaningful work
- Honest and helpful feedback
- Advice on future learning strategies
- Opportunities to revise their work and show their learning
In essence, Dweck wants to make sure students are motivated to learn whether they learn quickly or more slowly, visually or orally, and so on. Just telling someone to try harder won’t help, nor will just announcing they can do anything. Espousing a philosophy – rather than merely a tool-based approach – around growth mindset can help students gain and grow the abilities necessary to succeed.