Fixed vs Growth

Psychologist Carol Dweck studies motivation. Her well known concept of fixed and growth mindsets states that our core beliefs about our abilities and traits greatly impact how we learn. They can either prevent us or enable us to rise to challenges and meet our potential.

Fixed mindset – the view that our abilities are set, we’re either good at something or we’re not. Challenges are risky and open us up to failure and criticism.

Growth mindset – the view that our abilities can be improved through effort and perseverance. Challenges provide us with opportunities to learn and improve.

We all have a mix of fixed and growth mindsets.  This means we can have a growth mindset in one area of our life e.g. we believe we can improve our ability to ride a bike or become more efficient at our job. However, when it comes to something completely out of our comfort zone, like learning a new language or playing the violin, a fixed mindset kicks in and we believe we don’t have the ability to do it.

The concept of fixed and growth mindsets acknowledges that some people will have more ability and talent than others, but it states that we can all improve if we work hard and have the right support and guidance.

Educators and Parents

Although mindsets begin to develop from a very young age as children become more self-aware and frustrated by challenges and mistakes, it’s never too late to develop a growth mindset. Research suggests children can be taught a growth mindset which increases their engagement, motivation to face challenges and enjoyment of learning.

A growth mindset is motivational and encourages a love of learning and challenge. So what can we do to help develop a growth mindset in children?

*Be aware the two mindsets exist.

*Praise children wisely – for their focus, effort and for challenging themselves to succeed – not for how quickly they solved something or how easy they found it.

Dweck states praising children for their effort regardless of whether it was successful or not might make them temporarily feel good, but when they face difficulties that happiness fades. Praise which fosters a growth mindset must focus on the learning process, perseverance and effort which creates progress or success.

In this way, we can help children understand how effort, support and the use of different problem-solving strategies when tackling a challenge, can create progress in their learning. Any failures they have enhance their opportunities to learn and are nothing to be anxious or upset about.

Dweck suggests we can model this message by ensuring our reaction to failure isn’t automatically negative and also by not instinctively jumping in to ‘protect’ children from failure by providing them with empty praise to boost their self- confidence.

There are some excellent informative and interactive resources on developing mindsets in ‘Mindset Kit’, which was shared in an earlier post about Positive Education Resources .

Thanks for reading!

Further Reading

Dweck, C. (2017). Mindset-updated edition: Changing the way you think to fulfil your potential. Hachette UK.

Published by Improve My Well-being

Laura is an experienced mentor and teacher, with a MSc Applied Positive Psychology (Distinction). She enjoys living and working in multicultural environments and is passionate about promoting social well-being. Blogging is her outlet to share and explore well-being initiatives and practices with as many people as possible.

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