If you have been in education, even for a short time, you know that growth mindset is something that educators consider when working with students. About 30 years ago, researcher Carol Dweck became interested in how students talked about failure. She discovered that some students were able to bounce back quickly after failure, while others got stuck, feeling like setbacks were very difficult to get over. The students who could rebound quickly from failure have what Dweck coined a “growth mindset,” while students who struggle after failure have a “fixed mindset.” Students with growth mindsets believe that they can get better if they continue to learn and practice. Students with fixed mindsets believe that ability is an inherent trait and that they may just never be good at something.
Dweck’s findings have recently been supported by brain and neuroscience research. We now know that the human brain is extremely malleable. Research on brain plasticity shows that connectivity can change with experience; brain networks can grow new connections and strengthen existing ones when learning takes place. This research proves what people with a growth mindset already believe – that we can indeed increase our brain growth when we practice and try new things.
What a Growth Mindset Means for Students
A student with a growth mindset will work toward goals, even when that work is challenging. They will perhaps even pursue topics that are challenging because of the learning that comes from them. Students with a growth mindset persist despite failure and are more likely to see that failure as a stepping stone in the learning process. The result of a growth mindset can be reaching higher levels of achievement than peers with fixed mindsets who often plateau early and achieve less than their full potential.
The good news is that when teachers recognize that a student is operating with a fixed mindset, there are things they can do to help them change their patterns of thinking. Students who are taught about how memory works and how the brain can grow actually show an increase in effort and motivation compared to students who do not receive the same training.
Teachers can also influence mindset by giving specific types of feedback. General praise about intelligence, for example saying, “You are so smart” could have less of an impact on motivation and achievement. Instead, try praising for effort rather than the innate ability of intelligence to encourage students to progress and display more challenge-seeking behaviors.
If encouraging students to develop a growth mindset is something you would like to learn more about, consider taking classes toward the Bachelor of Science in Educational Studies degree at Grand Canyon University.
To learn more about how Grand Canyon University’s College of Education helps educators develop growth mindsets, visit our website or click the Request More Information Button on this page.