Why you should worry less about looking smart and what to do instead - develop a Growth Mindset

What is a “Growth Mindset”?

People who believe they can develop their talents through committing to new learning over time have what Stanford Professor Carol Dweck calls a “growth mindset”. On the other hand, people who believe their talents cannot be developed are identified by Dweck to be demonstrating a “fixed mindset”.

Research indicates that people with a growth mindset tend to achieve more than those with a fixed mindset. Dweck suggests that this is, in part, because people with a growth mindset tend to worry less about looking smart and, instead, put more energy into (professional) learning.

Sounds easy doesn’t it?

Let’s take a closer look at how this difference affects our professional learning and development, as well as the way we teach and how it influences students’ outcomes.

How mindset makes a difference

People demonstrating a fixed mindset tend to be less open to new learning. They may even become defensive when faced with an expectation where they will be required to learn new skills.

A growth mindset empowers a person to take control of his/her learning – to become more self-determined and committed to developing themselves, both personally and professionally.

When demonstrating a growth mindset, people don’t mind admitting they do not know everything and look to recruit support from others to assist them with their learning. They are open to new challenges and are appreciative of feedback to inform their learning.

Adopting a growth mindset improves the way we learn and, more importantly, the way we teach

You may have noticed your students, or colleagues, demonstrating either a growth or fixed mindset? Or perhaps you have seen them presenting in a different mindset at different times? Don’t get trapped into thinking that a person is limited to demonstrating either a growth mindset or a fixed mindset; i.e. one or the other.

The type of mindset a person demonstrates will be dependent upon the learning context in which they may find themselves, and the relative boundary of their comfort zone.

We must continually be alert to the type of mindset we demonstrate towards new learning, both as a learner and a teacher.

As a learner, we should acknowledge that new learning can be challenging and, at times, a real test of character.

Through commitment to structured practice over time, we can learn new skills that will result in professional and/or personal development. This creates a sense of achievement, which develops greater self-confidence and resilience. In return this further increases the likelihood that we will take on new learning challenges.

As a teacher, we should be conscious of the attitudes we demonstrate towards learning that frame our expectations of the learner. These expectations have a powerful impact upon the confidence these learners bring to the learning experience.

It can be all too easy to set subjective (and often unintentional) limits upon expectations for learning; both of ourselves and others.

Adopt a growth mindset and demonstrate lifelong engagement with learning to benefit not only you, but those you teach.