Journeying Toward a Growth Mindset

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By now, most educators have heard of Carol Dweck’s concept of mindset – and I suspect that all who know of it can see the wisdom in it. But, as with most concepts, there are myths and misunderstandings. To address some of those – and to explore the possibilities for helping students develop a growth mindset – I invited MaryCay Ricci, author of Mindsets in the Classroom, and Eduardo Briceño, CEO of Mindset Works, to Studentcentricity to talk with me.

In the opening pages of MaryCay’s book, she writes:

Breaking down the belief that intelligence is static can be challenging, but with the proper groundwork and education, little by little a mindset can shift. Expecting a shift in mindset immediately is not realistic; after all, some educators have had a fixed mindset belief for most of their lives. Even after someone has had a self-proclaimed mindset shift, she will need to make a conscious effort to maintain that belief.

Following our discussion, Eduardo summed up:

A growth mindset helps us learn and improve. There is a lot of confusion on what a growth mindset means.It does not mean being resilient, seeing effort as a good thing, or being flexible. A growth mindset is the understanding that we can change our personal qualities and abilities. When we understand that we can improve our abilities we seek out challenges we can learn from, we focus on what we can learn, and we persevere in the face of setbacks.

How can you begin helping students foster a growth mindset? I believe it starts with the way you praise them. MaryCay agrees, writing that educators “must be more aware of the way we praise students if we are journeying down the path toward a growth mindset.”

She continues:

Saying ‘You are so smart’ is the equivalent of saying ‘You are so tall’ – what did a child have to do with being tall? It is just a genetic trait that the child had no control over. Both praise statements recognize no action that the child has put forth. No effort is recognized. When adults praise what a child ‘is,’ such as smart or tall, the children attribute their accomplishment to a fixed trait they were born with. When adults praise actions or tasks that children ‘do,’ the children attribute accomplishment to their own effort.

But Eduardo warns that one of the common confusions about developing a growth mindset is that all we have to do it praise children for working hard. It’s one of the first questions I ask him in our discussion, which you can listen to here.

You can also read more of Eduardo’s thoughts in “Growth Mindset: Clearing Up Some Common Confusions” here.

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