Cultivating a Growth Mindset in the Classroom

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Think of someone who inspires you — a scientist, a senator, a singer.

Do you think this person was born with a gift? Or did they develop their skills over time?

Some people think Einstein was just born smart.
Or Beyonce was born to perform.

But, perhaps, the world’s most successful people developed their craft through hard work and perseverance. Perhaps anyone can be successful if they have the right mindset.

This is where the concept of the “growth mindset” comes into play.

It’s a concept developed by Carol Dweck, a professor of psychology at Stanford University.

She wanted to know why some people succeed in life and why some people don’t. What separated the successful people from the not-so-successful people? Was it just their talent? Or was it something else?

What is the Growth Mindset

The growth mindset sounds like a complicated concept, but it’s really not. This is what Dweck said in 2015:

“In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. Brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.” 

So, brains and talent are still important, but there’s something else at play. Perhaps successful people share common characteristics; determination, resolution, a will to succeed.

But some people are just born smarter, right? Or more talented? Not necessarily, according to Dweck. She believes that humans are born with unique genetic structures that make them better at some things such as arithmetic, memory recall, even singing.

But people who possess a growth mindset can catch up with the “naturally talented” people through hard work and perseverance. Essentially, everyone starts from a level playing field. 

Sometimes, these people can play “catch-up” all by themselves. They have ambition or a dream, and develop skills that help them achieve their goals. Other times, these people need a little nurturing.

According to Dweck, teachers, in particular, can help unlock an individual’s true potential. 

The Differences Between a Fixed Mindset and a Growth Mindset

Dweck believes there are two types of people in the world: Those who have a “fixed” mindset, and those who have a growth mindset.

She defines a fixed mindset as the following:

“In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success without effort.” 

People with a fixed mindset believe that talented people are just born that way — it’s rare, it’s innate, it’s a gift. 

Growth Mindset

  • Embraces Challenges
  • Displays persistence through adversity
  • Learns from criticism
  • Inspired by other success

Fixed Mindset

  • Avoids Challenges
  • Gives up more easily
  • Sees effort as fruitless
  • Ignores useful feedback
  • Feels threatened by others

Often times, these people give up on their dreams because they don’t think they’re good enough. This results in a self-fulfilling prophecy, where people don’t believe they are good enough for success. 

A fixed mindset often starts at a very young age. Children are taught that talent is natural-born — “Einstein was born special,” “Beyonce was born with her talents.” This mindset is far more common than you might think. You might even believe it. Until now. 

Teachers can perpetuate this belief. Pointing out that a student is “so smart” because they scored well on an exam suggests that intelligence is natural-born, rather than developed through hard work and persistence. 

People with a growth mindset, on the other hand, believe the opposite. They believe that skills develop over time. Essentially, anyone can be anything they want to be. All they need is the right attitude.

There’s science to back this up:

“Recent advances in neuroscience have shown us that the brain is far more malleable than we ever knew,” says Mindset Works. “Research on brain plasticity has shown how connectivity between neurons can change with experience. With practice, neural networks grow new connections, strengthen existing ones, and build insulation that speeds transmission of impulses.”

According to these studies, students can increase neural growth by the actions they take, such as asking teachers the right questions, reading the right books, and learning different viewpoints.

How to Support a Growth Mindset in the Classroom

There are various ways you can nurture a growth mindset in your classroom:

Don’t Praise Intelligence

As mentioned before, intelligence is often associated with being natural-born, rather than a learned behavior. Rewarding or praising students simply for being “intelligent” does nothing to encourage other students in your classroom. Instead, reward students who have completed the most research or read the most books. 

This can take a while, especially if you are used to teaching in a particular way. However, over time, you can inspire students to make the connection between hard work and success, rather than intelligence and success.

Use Various Teaching Methods

Some students might not be able to flourish because they are just not well-suited to conventional teaching methods — reading books, studying for exams, answering questions on the spot, etc. Using a wide range of teaching methods, on the other hand, can inspire all of your students to start believing in themselves and their future. 

Here are some teaching methods you might want to incorporate into your classroom:

  • Gamification: Use games and apps to teach complicated concepts, as well as textbooks.
  • Visuals: Some students are visual learners, and research shows that the human brain processes images around 60,000 times faster than regular text. Incorporating videos, images, infographics, and other visuals into your classroom could improve learning outcomes significantly.
  • Don't Just Rely on Assignments: Some students are just no good at exams, which require a degree of memory recall. You might want to use alternative methods to test learned knowledge in the classroom, such as presentations or discussion groups.

Encourage Students to Journal 

Journalling can be a great way to inspire students and fuel ambition. Ask your students to keep a journal and write down their thoughts at the end of every school day. Over time, they will learn how to process their emotions more effectively. 

Create an Inspiring Classroom Environment

A student’s environment can often influence his or her mindset. Create inspirational interiors in your classroom that foster learning and boost inspiration. Looking for the right classroom furniture? Click here to get a free quote!

Improve Communication

A lack of communication in the classroom can often be a barrier to future success. In order to inspire your students and encourage a growth mindset, communicate with them, one-on-one, on a regular basis. This way, you can customize your learning based on their individual needs and preferences. 

How a Growth Mindset Influences Creativity 

People with a fixed mindset are often held back by the belief that creativity is preset because it’s genetic or pre-determined. Nurturing a growth mindset, however, can free students from this mind trap. Creativity doesn’t have to be naturally-born. It can develop, flourish, blossom. 

Research from a student Carleton University suggests that creativity can be influenced by positive learning outcomes and strong goal orientation:

“A creative mindset does have strong correlations with learning/goal orientation and positive effort beliefs. Creative mindsets are positively related to strong beliefs in effort, as well as by the desire to learn, as shown by a strong, positive correlation with learning goals.”

Takeaway

For centuries, humans have believed in “God-given” gifts or natural-born abilities, which separate the successful people from those who are not-so-successful. 

According to Professor Carol Dweck, sure, some people are born with certain gifts, but that doesn’t mean other people can’t play catch-up and be just as successful in life. 

Encouraging a growth mindset in your classroom will inspire your students to cultivate their unique abilities so they can become more successful human beings. 

Follow the steps above and watch your students flourish. 

 

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