We cannot think about a focus on growth without starting with a “Growth Mindset”. This is THE integral component to thinking and living growth, and it is more often exposed through a “fixed mindset”.
We've all heard defeatist self-talk from our kids:
"I'm terrible at maths."
"I'll never be a good writer."
"I hate history."
Of course, such beliefs make learning these subjects all the more difficult.
But sometimes positive self-talk can also be problematic:
"I'm great at maths."
"I'm a natural-born writer."
"I know everything about history."
What's wrong with such statements? Like the negative self-talk, these statements limit learning because they create a fixed mindset. So, what are these fixed and growth mindsets?
Students succumb to a fixed mindset when they think that their intelligence and talent are set: They are either smart or not, either talented or not. A student who says, "I'm terrible at math" will avoid the subject whenever possible. A student who says, "I'm great at math" will probably not work very hard to improve.
On the other hand, students develop a growth mindset when they realise that intelligence and talent grow through practice, patience, and hard work. Conversely, intelligence and talent grow "rusty" from neglect. Rather than focusing on a fixed level of ability, students with a growth mindset focus on continual improvement.
Carol Dweck of Stanford University defines these beliefs in her book Mindset and shows how they impact learning: (Carol’s TED talk here
|Wants to prove intelligence or talent.
||Wants to improve intelligence or talent.
|Avoids challenges for fear of failure.
||Engages challenges to improve.
|Gives up in the face of tough obstacles.
||Persists in overcoming obstacles.
|Avoids hard labour.
||Sees labour as the path to success.
|Treats criticism as an attack.
||Treats criticism as an opportunity.
|Feels threatened by others’ success.
||Feels inspired by others’ success.
But, I learnt at school that IQ is fixed! Actually, not at all. Recent articles in Scientific American, Wired Science,
and the New York Times
cite numerous studies that support Dweck’s conclusions.
Even the person who initially defined the idea of IQ saw it as fluid. In Modern Ideas About Children
, Alfred Binet wrote, "With practice, training, and above all, method, we manage to increase our attention, our memory, our judgment and literally to become more intelligent than we were before."
So - how can I help my child develop a growth mindset? Start by helping our kids focus to on growth, shifting from "I'm terrible at this" to "I need more practice to learn this." Also, let’s create a classroom/home culture that listens to self-talk, replacing fixed-mindset statements with growth-mindset statements. We will find that this small change will make a big difference in learning.
Our focus on growth needs to start with a growth mindset and our challenge to constantly improve.
And speaking of improving – I will be away next week on the second week of my three week leadership course. A whole lot of growth going on there!
Grow, enjoy and have an amazing term ahead!
Mr Clark Wight
Head of Preparatory School