What is a growth mindset?
- The beliefs children have about intelligence, effort, and struggle impact the choices they make about learning.
People tend to hold one of two different beliefs about intelligence:
- Children with a growth mindset believe that intelligence can be developed. These students see school as a place to develop their abilities and think of challenges as opportunities to grow.
- Children with a fixed mindset believe that intelligence is fixed at birth and doesn’t change or changes very little with practice. These students see school as a place where their abilities are evaluated, they focus on looking smart over learning, and they interpret mistakes are a sign that they lack talent.
Female Voice: The math test is tomorrow, and Michael is dreading it. He doesn't understand the material. So he's just hoping the test will be easy. He thought about studying more, but studying math makes him feel dumb because it's so hard. He thinks asking for help would be even worse than failing because then everyone would see that he doesn't get it, even though he's trying.
So he procrastinates, and he tries to convince himself that math doesn't matter anyway. That way, at least he'll have an excuse for bombing tomorrow's test.
Male Voice: Stories like this play out in homes and in classrooms across the country every day. Students make poor choices about learning, not because they are lazy, but because they're secretly paralyzed by fears of feeling dumb when they have to try hard. Their beliefs about effort and struggle hold them back and make learning a scary experience.
It doesn't have to be that way. New research shows that the way parents talk about abilities and learning can have powerful effects on their kids' beliefs. Certain types of seemingly positive praise like “You're smart at this!” can backfire and make children more likely to avoid challenges or give up in the future when something is difficult.
Fortunately, the same research also shows that there are many things that we can do to help children develop into resilient learners.
Female Voice: Stanford University's professor Carol Dweck has spent decades studying how people think about intelligence. Dweck and her colleagues have found that people tend to hold one of two very different perspectives about intelligence. One perspective is called a fixed mindset. That's the belief that intelligence is fixed at birth and doesn't change or changes very little with practice. It's the belief that intelligence is like eye color. You're stuck with whatever you're born with.
The other perspective is called a growth mindset. A growth mindset is the belief that intelligence improves through study and practice. In other words, people with a growth mindset think intelligence is like a muscle that grows stronger with training.
Male Voice: For children with a fixed mindset, the classroom can be a scary place. They see school as the place where their abilities are evaluated, not as a place where their abilities are developed. Their goal in school tends to be to show that they are smart or at least to avoid looking dumb. For them, mistakes are a sign that they lack talent.
Female Voice: For children with a growth mindset, the classroom is a more exciting and less judgmental place. They believe they can develop their ability, and they understand that the classroom is just the place to do that. Children with a growth mindset tend to see challenges as opportunities to grow because they understand that they can improve their abilities by pushing themselves. If something is hard, they understand it will push them to get better.