What is a growth mindset?
- Students with a growth mindset believe that intelligence can be developed. These students focus on learning over just looking smart, see effort as the key to success, and thrive in the face of a challenge.
- Students with a fixed mindset believe that people are born with a certain amount of intelligence, and they can’t do much to change that. These students focus on looking smart over learning, see effort as a sign of low ability, and wilt in the face of a challenge.
- Students with a growth mindset do better in school.
People who have a growth mindset believe that intelligence can be developed, while people with a fixed mindset believe that intelligence is a fixed trait. People with a fixed mindset think of intelligence kind of like eye color. They believe that you're born with a certain amount of intelligence, and you can't do much to change that.
People with a growth mindset think of intelligence more like a muscle. They understand that when you put in effort and challenge yourself, you can get smarter, just like when you put in effort at the gym and challenge yourself by lifting heavier weights to make your muscles stronger.
Think about this statement: You can learn new things, but you can't really change your basic intelligence. People who really agree with this statement have a fixed mindset. People who really disagree with this statement have a growth mindset, and, of course, people might be somewhere in the middle.
It turns out that the more students disagree with statements like these, the more they have a growth mindset, the better they do in school. This is because students with a growth mindset approach school differently than students with a fixed mindset. They have different goals in school. The main goal for students with a fixed mindset is to show how smart they are or to hide how unintelligent they are. This make sense if you think that intelligence is something you either have or you don't have. You want to show that you have it.
Students with a fixed mindset will avoid asking questions when they don't understand something because they want to preserve the image that they are smart or hide that they're not smart. But the main goal with students with a growth mindset is to learn. This also makes a lot of sense. If you think that intelligence is something that you can develop, the way you develop your intelligence is by learning new thIngs. So students with a growth mindset will ask questions when they don't understand something because that's how they'll learn. Similarly, students with a fixed mindset view effort negatively. They think, if I have to try, I must not be very smart at this. While students with a growth mindset view effort as the way that you learn, the way that you get smarter.
Where you'll really see a difference in students with fixed and growth mindsets is when they are faced with a challenge or setback. Students with a fixed mindset will give up because they think their setback means they're not smart, but students with a growth mindset actually like challenges. If they already knew how to do something, it wouldn't be an opportunity to learn, to develop their intelligence.
Given that students with a growth mindset try harder in school, especially in the face of a challenge, it's no surprise that they do better in school.
Blackwell, L., Trzesniewski, K., & Dweck, C.S. (2007). Implicit theories of intelligence predict achievement across an adolescent transition: A longitudinal study and an intervention. Child Development, 78. 246-263.