Carol Dweck, a Stanford University psychologist, has written extensively about the impact of mindset on learning. Those individuals with a ‘growth mindset’ believe that their intelligence in an area can grow over time, whereas those with a ‘fixed mindset’ believe that their capacity for success in a particular area is limited by their prior experience. In other words, if you’re bad at math (or any other subject…) you will always be bad at that subject.
Our mindset shapes our belief in ourselves as well as our outlook on the world. People with a fixed mindset tend to either give up on learning in an area where they struggle, or they work harder to maintain the appearance of ‘being smart’ than ‘becoming smart’ through hard work and persistent effort. But individuals with a growth mindset thrive on challenges and opportunities for further growth.
The futurist Eric Hoffer articulated this contrast when he said “In times of change learners inherit the earth; while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” In our modern world of constant change our most important obligation as educators is to teach our students (as well as ourselves) to embrace a growth mindset. Without it even the most gifted student will find himself trapped in a self-imposed cage, too afraid to ask questions or work hard because he might not seem ‘smart’ to those around him.
Research in teaching has long maintained that educators need to be knowledgeable about their content and skilled in delivering it to students. There are many instructional strategies that engage students and scaffold learning, but the most important strategy of all is to teach every learner to believe in himself and his ability to learn and succeed with enough time and effort.
If we believe… we will achieve…